"That result was important because we are looking for something that can help people," Adams says.
Their next step was to add tomatidine to the diet of mice. They found that healthy mice supplemented with tomatidine grew bigger muscles, became stronger and could exercise longer. And, most importantly, they found that tomatidine prevented and treated muscle atrophy.
Interestingly, although mice fed tomatidine had larger muscles, their overall body weight did not change due to a corresponding loss of fat, suggesting that the compound may also have potential for treating obesity.
Designing healthier foods
An attractive aspect of tomatidine is that it is a natural compound derived from tomatoes. It is produced when alpha-tomatine, which is found in tomato plants and in green tomatoes in particular, is digested in the gut.
"Green tomatoes are safe to eat in moderation. But we don't know how many green tomatoes a person would need to eat to get a dose of tomatidine similar to what we gave the mice. We also don't know if such a dose of tomatidine will be safe for people, or if it will have the same effect in people as it does in mice," Adams says. "We are working hard to answer these questions, hoping to find relatively simple ways that people can maintain muscle mass and function, or if necessary, regain it."
Adams and his team previously used this same research strategy to discover that ursolic acid, a compound from apple peels, promotes muscle growth.
"Tomatidine is significantly more potent than ursolic acid and appears to have a different mechanism of action. This is a step in the right direction," Adams says. "We are now very interested in the possibility that several food-based natural compounds such as tomatidine and ursolic acid might someday be combined into science-based supplements, or even simply incorporated into everyday foods to make
|Contact: Jennifer Brown|
University of Iowa Health Care