To hockey fans Wayne Gretzky is The Great One, but to body builders he may soon become The Guy Who Got Me to Buy a $100/month Muscle Supplement. The living legend of the ice just became the spokesperson for Myo-T12 from Atlas Therapeutics, a substance that the company claims will help users build muscle by inhibiting a protein known as myostatin. Myostatin is the body’s signal to muscles to stop growing. By blocking myostatin, Atlas Therapeutics hopes humans of all ages can have youthful, muscular physiques. At least, that’s the theory. While their own clinical tests have had positive results there seems to be a lack of third party verification (including the FDA) to authenticate the claims. In the world of steroids, muscle enhancers and health supplements, a myostatin solution might be the least drastic option to gaining bulk, but it will take the results from a first generation of guinea pig users before we know for sure. Oh Gretzky, what are you getting us into?
Here’s Atlas’ animated pitch for Myo-T12. Seems appealing doesn’t it?
Since its discovery in 1997, the myostatin gene has been conclusively linked to abnormal muscle growth in mice, dogs, cattle, and humans. In fact, two human infants (one in Germany, one in the US) are thought to be so incredibly muscular thanks to defects in their myostatin gene, or in the myostatin receptors in their muscles. There’s little doubt that if a human could somehow block the production, or reception, of myostatin, they’d give themselves a huge advantage in rapidly developing and maintaining muscle mass.
In fact, we’ve already covered how early trials on monkeys at Ohio State University (in cooperation with the National Children’s Hospital) have shown evidence that you can artificially inhibit myostatin production and get an animal to develop more muscle, even if they weren’t born with an abnormal myostatin condition. In the future pediatric doctors may be able to treat conditions like Muscular Dystrophy in children through injecting myostatin blocking proteins directly into muscles.
So I’m all for myostatin research and the eventual use of myostatin to help with muscular ailments or just to help average people get lean and mean. Hell, if myostatin blocking was proven to be risk free, I’d probably be clamoring to use it myself. I am a little wary, however, in accepting that such technologically advanced muscle building techniques could be obtained via a digestible formula, especially one available today. That being said, Atlas Therapeutics maintains Myo-T12 is “clinically proven to reduce the average serum myostatin levels in the body by up to 46 percent within 12 to 18 hours, after just one serving”; with myostatin levels returning to normal in the next 30 hours or so. Such claims are always followed by acknowledgment that results haven´t been validated by the FDA. While I don’t think the FDA is the last word in evaluating products, any kind of third party review would go a long way to quieting my fears.
Being a technophile in the 21st century means I believe such validation could come from crowd-sourcing the process out to the first generation of Myo-T12 users. If enough people are willing to shell out $100/month, document their experience, and share it, we could have enough such anecdotal evidence as to make the product much more acceptable. Atlas Therapeutics had a similar idea, apparently, as they are actively soliciting video testimonials from early adopters.
Of course, the cynic in me would like to point out that such testimonials serve as advertising as much as scientific reviews. In fact, Atlas has shown itself to be keenly focused on marketing and business success, as they claim to have made $1 million in sales in the three months of their pilot launch, with a 70% gross profit margin (suddenly that $100/month price seems a little high).
There’s an even larger cynic in me (I’m feeling like a Russian nesting doll of cynicism here) that wants to point out how prevalent muscle augmentation is in the world. Steriods are everywhere in professional sports. In a quest to pass drug tests and still build muscle fast, trainers and athletes pursue an ever increasing list of performance enhancing substances that regulators must race to keep track of. Many of these enhancements, like Human Growth Hormone, testosterone, and creatine are already found in the body. We simply tweak the levels in order to turn ourselves into muscle making machines. Nearly all such drugs carry serious (potentially lethal) side effects, but they do work. Can Myo-T12 get you as bulky as anabolic steroids? It’s yet to be seen. Even if Myo-T12 doesn’t exactly perform as promised, it may still be a better alternative than all the other muscle enhancing substances out there because of reduced dangers. Undoubtedly there are athletes out there who will pursue myostatin blocking (either Myo-T12 or another product) as a means of circumventing drug testing while still getting results.
In any case, as I so often do when discussing health supplements, I’d like to caution the tech-loving athletes out there. One day, controlling myostatin is very likely to become a viable and successful means of augmenting human muscle growth, but Myo-T12 has to be seen as something of a gamble. A reasonable gamble for some, but surely not for all. It will likely take many more years before mainstream medical applications for myostatin are ready, and who knows how long after that before recreational uses are approved for mass consumption by the comically slow FDA. For the time being, the only universally accepted path to a muscular physique are good genetics, a healthy diet, regular exercise, and the avoiding of stress. If you want to step off that path and take a little risk exploring myostatin blocking, more power to you. (And if it really works, let me know, ’cause I may want in.)
Bottom line, Wayne Gretzky’s endorsement shows how much money companies like Atlas Therapeutics can make off of our belief that technology can give us an easy path to a perfect body. We desperately want a pill (or powder) that we can take and suddenly be stronger and better looking. Someday, fueled by this overwhelming demand, scientists might just develop such a pill. Is it here today in the form of Myo-T12? Who knows. There are no sure bets – even The Great One missed a goal every now and then.