Gene Therapy Doubled Strength and Reduces Fat

Gene therapy helped build significant muscle mass quickly and reduced the severity of osteoarthritis in the mice, even though they didn’t exercise more. The therapy also staved off obesity, even when the mice ate an extremely high-fat diet.

Science – Gene therapy for follistatin mitigates systemic metabolic inflammation and post-traumatic arthritis in high-fat diet–induced obesity

Even without additional exercise, and while continuing to eat a high-fat diet, the muscle mass of these “super mice” more than doubled, and their strength nearly doubled, too. The mice also had less cartilage damage related to osteoarthritis, lower numbers of inflammatory cells and proteins in their joints, fewer metabolic problems, and healthier hearts and blood vessels than littermates that did not receive the gene therapy. The mice also were significantly less sensitive to pain.

One worry was that some of the muscle growth prompted by the gene therapy might turn out to be harmful. The heart, for example, is a muscle, and a condition called cardiac hypertrophy, in which the heart’s walls thicken, is not a good thing. But in these mice, heart function actually improved, as did cardiovascular health in general.

Longer-term studies will be needed to determine the safety of this type of gene therapy. But, if safe, the strategy could be particularly beneficial for patients with conditions such as muscular dystrophy that make it difficult to build new muscle.


Obesity-associated inflammation and loss of muscle function play critical roles in the development of osteoarthritis (OA); thus, therapies that target muscle tissue may provide novel approaches to restoring metabolic and biomechanical dysfunction associated with obesity. Follistatin (FST), a protein that binds myostatin and activin, may have the potential to enhance muscle formation while inhibiting inflammation. Here, we hypothesized that adeno-associated virus 9 (AAV9) delivery of FST enhances muscle formation and mitigates metabolic inflammation and knee OA caused by a high-fat diet in mice. AAV-mediated FST delivery exhibited decreased obesity-induced inflammatory adipokines and cytokines systemically and in the joint synovial fluid. Regardless of diet, mice receiving FST gene therapy were protected from post-traumatic OA and bone remodeling induced by joint injury. Together, these findings suggest that FST gene therapy may provide a multifactorial therapeutic approach for injury-induced OA and metabolic inflammation in obesity.

SOURCES- University of Washington, Science
Written By Brian Wang,