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Natural Fitness Levels Affect Resistance to Disease

In the process of conducting research to demonstrate that low aerobic exercise capacity is related to the development of common diseases, a new animal model has been developed that goes beyond providing a simple, linear explanation for disease risk. A new report in the Federation of American Society for Experimental Biology (FASEB) Journal shows that genetically fit animals bred over generations showed at least seven genetic variations that improved the animals' ability to resist disease. The genetically fit animals were known as "high-runner" rats and they were bred with each other, while less fit "lower runner" rats were bred with each other to create the animal model.

Disease risk is based on a complex interaction of many genetic and environmental pathways, so the scientists caution that we should not assume that if we are particularly naturally fitness, we are immune to disease, or that if we are not, we are condemned to torturous exercise regimens in order to stay healthy. Dr. Heikki Kainulainen, from the Finland explains their research: "We hope that our approach of using a more realistic animal model system of disease risks will lead to information that is explanatory and ultimately predictive of mechanisms underlying disease. This seems to be the only path for developing diagnostics and therapeutics that have high efficacy."

There is ample evidence available that the animal model is applicable to humans. Gerald Weismann, MD, Editor-in-Chief of the FASEB Journal notes, "Genes that increase resistance to common diseases in high runner rats are also present across species. As our understanding of disease grows in complexity, so does our need for animal models that can mimic disease susceptibility in humans."

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