June 25, 2004


Genetic mutation turns tot into superboy (MSNBC, June 25th, 2004)

Somewhere in Germany is a baby Superman, born in Berlin with bulging arm and leg muscles. Not yet 5, he can hold seven-pound weights with arms extended, something many adults cannot do. He has muscles twice the size of other kids his age and half their body fat.

DNA testing showed why: The boy has a genetic mutation that boosts muscle growth.

The discovery, reported in Thursday’s New England Journal of Medicine, represents the first documented human case of such a mutation.
Many scientists believe the find could eventually lead to drugs for treating people with muscular dystrophy and other muscle-destroying conditions. And athletes would almost surely want to get their hands on such a drug and use it like steroids to bulk up.

The boy’s mutant DNA segment was found to block production of a protein called myostatin that limits muscle growth. The news comes seven years after researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore created buff “mighty mice” by “turning off” the gene that directs cells to produce myostatin.

“Now we can say that myostatin acts the same way in humans as in animals,” said the boy’s physician, Dr. Markus Schuelke, a professor in the child neurology department at Charite/University Medical Center Berlin. “We can apply that knowledge to humans, including trial therapies for muscular dystrophy.”

Given the huge potential market for such drugs, researchers at universities and pharmaceutical companies already are trying to find a way to limit the amount and activity of myostatin in the body. Wyeth has just begun human tests of a genetically engineered antibody designed to neutralize myostatin.

Gee, it looks like a whole new generation is going to be gulping miracle fashion drugs in order to all look like Schwarzenegger. You have a problem with that? What's the matter, buddy, are you saying you’re in favour of muscular dystrophy?

Posted by Peter Burnet at June 25, 2004 2:34 PM

All -

to see what a Belgian Blue bull with a myostatin deletion looks like, check the photo in this article:


For a pic of the referenced toddler's thighs, check out this article:



Posted by: Bruce Cleaver at June 25, 2004 3:25 PM

The bodybuilding world has been aware for years now of the myostatin deletion potential, and some over-the-counter supplements quickly became available. They did nothing, so it would appear that serious genetic engineering is necessary to take 'advantage' of this possibility. Orrin is right though, as soon as the product is available, a m arms race of pharmaceuticals will ensue, quickly reaching doen to the high school and junior high levels.

Posted by: Bruce Cleaver at June 25, 2004 3:31 PM

The first sentence of this story sounds lifted right out of a horror movie...

Posted by: brian at June 25, 2004 3:48 PM

Unfortunately, about 80 years too late for the Germans.

Posted by: Rick T. at June 25, 2004 4:05 PM

And fortunately for the rest of us.

Posted by: John Barrett Jr. at June 25, 2004 9:31 PM

Evolutionary theory says that this mutation is almost certainly harmful - else it would be commonplace.

Posted by: mike earl at June 26, 2004 8:36 PM