frog promises solution to muscle atrophyA new bunch of genes have been researched by the scientists of the University of Queensland. These are known to help the striped burrowing frog prevent muscle wasting during periods of dormancy. Researchers have deduced that these same genes can be extremely beneficial when used in patients who are bedridden and who experience wasting of muscles. They might even help astronauts, the researchers said.

Most times, mammals including humans, experience muscle atrophy, which means that the muscles that are not in use for a long time start degenerating. This is not the case with green striped burrowing frogs which are scientifically known as Cyclorana alboguttata. These frogs hibernate when resources outside are very scarce and thus, can survive by wrapping themselves in a cocoon of shed skin. These frogs suffer very minimal muscle wastage even after long periods of practically zero muscular activity.

The gene termed “Survivin”, acts in a protective manner and prevents the “suicide” mechanism which occurs in other muscle cells. The lead investigator reported that if they understood the cell signaling pathways it would be of great use in humans, especially patients confined to bed. It is also noticed that this gene is extremely active in human cancer cells.

Reactive oxygen species are highly charged molecular particles which can cause damage to inactive muscles, especially in mammals. They degrade the proteins present in the muscles which eventually cause wasting of the muscles. These reactive oxygen species do not affect the dormant frogs. This may be due to presence of anti-oxidants, which are protective to the wasting effect. Thioredoxin and sulfiredoxin are two compounds which help prevent wasting in a similar manner.

This discovery might lead to a whole new system of science wherein the genes of the green burrowing frog can be used in humans vulnerable to muscle atrophy.

Penned by Dr. Rachita Narsaria, MD

1) O’Driscoll L, Linehan R, Clynes M (2003) et al. “Survivin: role in normal cells and in pathological conditions”. Int J Cancer 2003; 706(2):224-231.
2) Fukuda S, Pelus LM. Survivin, a cancer target with an emerging role in normal adult tissues. Mol Cancer Ther. 2006 May;5(5):1087-98.