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Steroids boost muscles for the long haul

Experiments in mice suggest effects don’t end when doping does

8:01am, November 1, 2013

PUMPED UP  Mouse muscles treated with steroids (right) grow bigger than ones in undrugged animals (left). Steroids increase the number of nuclei in a muscle cell, which may help the muscle pump back up long after the steroids are gone. 

Steroids may continue to boost muscle-building capacity long after a person stops taking the drugs, a new study of mice suggests. The finding could mean that athletes who cheat by taking anabolic steroids should be suspended from competition for a decade or longer.

The research also suggests that building muscles in youth may have benefits that last into old age.

In the new study, researchers led by Kristian Gundersen, a physiologist at the University of Oslo, tested the effect of steroids on female mice. The team had previously shown that exercise builds new nuclei in muscle cells (SN: 9/11/10, p. 15). Nuclei are the cellular compartments where DNA is stored, and muscle cells typically have multiple nuclei. Increasing the number of nuclei gives muscles the capacity to build more proteins.

Doses of the steroid testosterone caused the mice to add nuclei to their muscles, the

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