Genes and the Gym

Exercise is good for us—and now researchers know why.

Doctors, researchers and a multimillion-dollar fitness industry have long been aware of the benefits of a body in motion. Now, researchers at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine have discovered the genetic factor that governs the body's ability to burn fat during exercise, shedding light on the molecular mechanisms behind the benefit of hitting the gym.

working out

Previous research from the lab of Mukesh Jain, MD, an expert on cardiovascular and metabolic research at the School of Medicine, identified the importance of KLF15 in the metabolism of two of the three basic nutrients used by the human body: sugar and protein. The most recent discovery shows the gene plays an essential role in the metabolism of the third nutrient—fat.

Researchers found levels of KLF15 increased dramatically in the muscles of mice during exercise—and later observed the same pattern in humans.

"These observations now place KLF15 as central to nutrient production and utilization in mammals," Jain says. Since altered metabolism underlies many diseases, KLF15 may provide a useful target for therapies, he adds.

Exercise is the first choice in treatment for many metabolic disorders, including obesity and diabetes. With the discovery that KLF15 controls the benefits of exercise, scientist may one day be able to induce similar effects using medication, which could be used as a complement to exercise.