Myostatin is an important negative regulator of muscle growth. Natural mutations and knockouts in animals produce a “double-muscled” phenotype the basis of which is a dramatic increase in muscle mass. Therapeutics that target myostatin are currently in development. There are almost no documented side effects of suppression, and early research suggests that myostatin inhibition can restore function in cases of muscular dystrophy. Clinical trials are currently underway, although myostatin research has not taken advantage of some techniques like RNA interference. With the development of myostatin therapies and advances in gene therapy, the social and ethical implications of using these as performance enhancement strategies raise interesting questions about athleticism in general.
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