A chemical isolated from marine sponges prevents muscle degeneration in mice reports a paper published in Nature Communications this week. Although this compound has not been tested in humans yet, the finding could potentially lead to the development of drugs against muscle wasting syndromes.
Muscle wasting syndrome, or cachexia, describes the excessive weight loss and deterioration of skeletal muscles often observed in patients with cancer or sepsis. Although 30% of cancer-related deaths are attributed to cachexia, no effective treatment is currently available. Imed Gallouzi and his team investigated the use of pateamine A - a toxic chemical produced by marine sponges - in a mouse model of tumour-associated cachexia. They found that low doses of pateamine A prevented muscle loss in these animals. They go on to show in cultured muscle cells that the pateamine A specifically blocked the production of the protein iNOS, which is known to be involved in the development of cachexia.