A genetic mutation in "mighty mice" is also found in a German boy with unusually large muscles, scientist say.

The four-year-old's muscles are roughly twice as large as other children his age. Researchers found he has an inherited mutation in the myostatin gene, boosting muscle growth and reducing fat.

"This is the first evidence that myostatin regulates muscle mass in people as it does in other animals," said Dr. Se-Jin Lee, a professor of molecular biology and genetics at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and a co-author of the study.

Genetic mutation boosts muscle growth shown in boy of seven months. (AP Photo/New England Journal of Medicine)
Genetic mutation boosts muscle growth shown in boy of seven months. (AP Photo/New England Journal of Medicine)

Naturally bulky cattle such as Belgian Blues also lack myostatin, the researchers have found.

Lee's team wants to explore if interfering with myostatin can slow down muscle loss in muscle wasting diseases such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy. About 850 males in Canada have the disease.

Seven years ago, Lee's team created mice that are twice as brawny as normal by blocking the mysotatin gene. Both Lee and his university would share in royalties if the research results in any commercial therapies.

The researchers sequenced the myostatin gene from the boy and his mother, a former professional sprinter. They found he had two mutant copies and she had one. Other members of her family are reportedly strong.

The boy, whose identity hasn't been revealed, is healthy. Doctors worry he could suffer heart or other health problems in the future.

The study appears in Thursday's issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Other researchers agreed blocking myostatin has therapeutic potential for muscle disorders, but warned of the potential for abuse by athletes.

"Although these pathways hold great promise for the treatment of muscle-degenerative disorders, the potential for abuse outside of the medical arena is substantial," Dr. Elizabeth McNally of the University of Chicago said in a Journal commentary.

"Further studies of the safety, efficacy, and long-term consequences of manipulating muscle growth are needed."

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Wyeth did a study on blocking Myostatin...MYO-029...it was eventually dropped because the results were not favorable.

If memory serves me right, tendons need myostatin. We already know that in most cases, the heel cords need to be surgically released. If Myo is blocked, then would it only speed up that process? What about other tendons, how will they be affected?

Whatever the case, I hope $$$ isn't wasted testing Myo again, unless they have a better plan of attack.

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