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Couch potato pill help prevent heat stroke

health and fitness Updated: Jan 10, 2012 14:04 IST

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Scientists have stumbled upon a drug already known as the Couch Potato Pill which they say could also prevent heat stroke in people prone to the deadly condition.

The drug, abbreviated as AICAR, was tested three years ago for its ability to build muscle and increase endurance in mice that never break a sweat.

Now, researchers found that the drug was 100 per cent effective in preventing death in these mice genetically engineered to be susceptible to heat stroke.

Thus, the findings, published in the journal Nature Medicine, have implications for anyone exposed to heat or with abnormal heat sensitivity, the researchers said.

"Our study takes an important first step towards developing a new drug therapy that may be part of the standard treatment regimen for heat stroke."

Robert Dirksen, a study author at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, was quoted as saying by LiveScience.

Heat stroke is caused by over exposure to temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8C), and it is common among the elderly and athletes. Many US soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq have suffered from the condition due to high temperatures and heavy gear.

Some people have a genetic disorder called malignant hyperthermia that places them at high risk for heat stroke, even without the heat.

The disorder is linked to a mutation in the RYR1 gene, which causes uncontrolled muscle contractions and increases in body temperature, typically induced by certain drugs such as general anesthesia.

Inspired by the 2008 Couch Potato study that showed how AICAR slowed muscle fatigue and increased muscle endurance, a team led by Susan Hamilton at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston carried out the new study to know the effects of AICAR on mice with this RYR1 mutation.