“Exercise-in-a-pill” Could Get Louisiana Into Shape

January 18, 2022

Decoding Messages From Muscle

Louisiana ranks fourth in the nation for obesity and diabetes. The human cost of these diseases is immeasurable, and their economic burden—medical costs and lost productivity—is estimated in billions of dollars each year. But what if there was a pill you could take each day that would prevent your blood sugar from going up and the fat you eat from being stored in your body? This could one day be possible, according to researchers in the Integrative Physiology and Molecular Medicine (IPMM) Laboratory at LSU’s Pennington Biomedical Research Center, who are working toward a new treatment they describe as “exercise-in-a-pill.”
“There are more benefits to regular exercise than we can even begin to understand,” said Christopher Axelrod, an exercise physiologist and director of the IPMM lab, which is focused on studying and solving metabolic diseases, such as obesity and diabetes. “This line of research stems from the idea that if we knew which factors produced during exercise made people healthier, then maybe we could isolate them and just give them as a medical therapy.”
Only for the last 20 years or so have scientists understood that skeletal muscle (muscle attached to bone) is more than a mechanical tool for movement operated by the brain. Instead, skeletal muscle is one of the body’s largest endocrine organs, which means it sends out messages in the form of proteins, called myokines. Muscle “talks” with other parts of the body to cause a cascade of beneficial responses.

Exercise in a pill

LSU researchers at Pennington Biomedical are decoding messages from exercised muscle to learn how it “talks” with other parts of the body to cause a cascade of beneficial responses. In the future, these same messages (messenger proteins) could potentially be delivered in the form of a pill, allowing people to reap many of the benefits of exercise without having to move.


“While lifestyle modifications, such as increased physical activity, is the mainstay of clinical recommendations for treatment, some community members suffer from chronic conditions that prevent them from exercising regularly. Increasing access to physiological benefits of exercise through medications would undoubtedly help improve the overall health of Louisiana.”

- Dr. Eboni Price-Haywood, physician at Ochsner’s Primary Care and Wellness Center in New Orleans and medical director of the Ochsner Xavier Institute for Health Equity and Research