Science

New research reveals genetic evidence of "muscle memory"

New research reveals genetic e...
Muscle growth was found to leave an epigenetic trace in muscle genes, helping muscles grow faster in laster life
Muscle growth was found to leave an epigenetic trace in muscle genes, helping muscles grow faster in laster life
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Muscle growth was found to leave an epigenetic trace in muscle genes, helping muscles grow faster in laster life
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Muscle growth was found to leave an epigenetic trace in muscle genes, helping muscles grow faster in laster life

New research led by at team at Keele University has revealed that human skeletal muscle has an epigenetic memory determined by earlier growth. This very literal discovery of "muscle memory" not only offers new insight into how exercise and rehabilitation programs can better target genes responsible for muscle growth, but potentially has dramatic implications for the long-lasting effects of performance-enhancing muscle building drugs.

The study examined eight untrained male subjects over a 22-week period. Each subject participated in a period of targeted resistance exercise, followed by a period of inactivity, and then another stretch of exercise. Muscle biopsies were taken at several points across the study and over 850,000 genomic sites were analyzed for epigenetic alterations.

"In this study, we've demonstrated the genes in muscle become more untagged with this epigenetic information when it grows following exercise in earlier life, importantly these genes remain untagged even when we lose muscle again, but this untagging helps 'switch' the gene on to a greater extent and is associated with greater muscle growth in response to exercise in later life – demonstrating an epigenetic memory of earlier life muscle growth!" explains senior author Adam Sharples with his PhD student, Robert Seaborne.

The research revealed several specific genes that demonstrated an epigenetic sensitivity related to muscle memory. The hope is that an increased knowledge of these "muscle memory genes" will help improve treatments for athletes recovering from injuries. But perhaps one of the most compelling implications of this study comes when one considers how it relates to athletes taking performance-enhancing drugs.

"If an elite athlete takes performance-enhancing drugs to put on muscle bulk, their muscle may retain a memory of this prior muscle growth," says Seaborne. "If the athlete is caught and given a ban – it may be the case that short bans are not adequate, as they may continue to be at an advantage over their competitors because they have taken drugs earlier in life, despite not taking drugs anymore."

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Source: Keele University

3 comments
Jose Gros
Interesting discovery, that previous training prepares muscle cells to grow faster after a later come back to exercise, and this through epigenetic changes. It was observed, in cancer patients receiving ChemoTherapy, that the risk of Fever from low WBC is highest in the first course, and also in the second and third courses combined, this may point to changes in the genes that regulate Bone Marrow recovery and may deserve a similar study. Or not?
bullfrog84
Duh. Common sense and a little case study would prove this. However, I would say there is more studying to do on the perpetual implications depending on the body itself. You won't see a 300 lbs crank person out anything like 165 gym rat, but had the 300 lbs person exercised previously in their life (ie. teens) their body will remember and the conditioning will seem "familiar", not that it will be any easier mentally. IE: If an elite athlete takes performance-enhancing drugs to put on muscle bulk, their muscle may retain a memory of this prior muscle growth," says Seaborne. "If the athlete is caught and given a ban – it may be the case that short bans are not adequate, as they may continue to be at an advantage over their competitors because they have taken drugs earlier in life, despite not taking drugs anymore." I disagree on context when using supplements vs. not as per my personal experience and although I've never taken any type of "steroid" I do take supplements and I do notice that it is harder to regain the strength you once had with the boost versus getting it back when you had to start again without. However, I do believe if you're hormone levels are appropriate you can train your mind to overcome the differences, mind you there will be side effects as you push yourself harder without giving your body the extra "nutrient".
maurice89
Many athletes know this already. Does pose the question of PEDs use enabling better performance when clean afterward. I can tell you that working with “once enhanced” athletes that try and compete clean against the “always natural” athletes, when a once enhanced athlete tries to compete the always natural athlete usually prevails. After you run the high octane fuel it’s hard to compete without it. Becomes both a physical and mental struggle as the performance gap is significant. So, I think it’s going to be a hard to measure scenario once Pandora’s box has been opened as there are a few performance dynamics the drugs which effect the outcome.