Metabolic syndrome is the name given to a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. This combination is estimated to affect 1 in 3 adults over 50 in the UK. Metabolic syndrome puts people at risk of developing coronary heart disease, stroke, and other conditions that affect the blood vessels.
It is known that regular physical activity can delay or even prevent metabolic syndrome. Researchers have found that muscles release small proteins called myokines when they contract. These myokines can have a positive effect on metabolic syndrome, increasing glucose uptake from the blood and improving the breakdown of fat. As a result, myokines have been identified as a potential treatment for preventing metabolic diseases and metabolic syndrome.
Much of the research into metabolic syndrome has used rodents, such as mice, rats, and hamsters. Attempts to reproduce this condition in animals include changing their diet, genetic modification, or the use of drugs. However, these animal models have not been able to provide reliable findings relevant to humans, because of the differences between rodents and people. They also cannot replicate the complex environmental and genetic factors which contribute to metabolic syndrome in people. So, we need to develop new ways of studying metabolic syndrome in the lab which are more directly relevant to humans.