Known enzyme may be key to unlocking super endurance in humans

A new study from Harvard University details the discovery of a critical role the enzyme prolyl hydroxylase 3 (PHD3) plays that may help lead to super-endurance capabilities in humans. The study, which involved lab mice, involved blocking this enzyme, something that resulted in a massively increased ability to run long distances, among other things.

Researchers explain that prolyl hydroxylase 3 is an enzyme that helps the body detect how much nutrients are available, according to the new study, ultimately helping the body regulate the breakdown of fat. When nutrients are high, the enzyme plays a key role in reducing the body's metabolism of fat.

When nutrients aren't readily available, though, the PHD3 enzyme is repressed and fat can be broken down to use as energy. The study found that when this enzyme was blocked in mice, the animals experienced a very notable increase in endurance levels, boosting their VO2 max and enabling then to run 50-percent farther and 40-percent longer.

Study senior author Marcia Haigis said:

Our results suggest that PHD3 inhibition in whole body or skeletal muscle is beneficial for fitness in terms of endurance exercise capacity, running time and running distance. Understanding this pathway and how our cells metabolize energy and fuels potentially has broad applications in biology, ranging from cancer control to exercise physiology.

Of course, there's one key piece of information that isn't yet available — can this enzyme be altered in humans to give them super-endurance capabilities, as well? That will need to be the subject of a future study, as will other potential issues, such as whether blocking this enzyme would have consequences for other parts of the body.