Scientists have stumbled upon a drug that may prevent heat stroke for people prone to the deadly condition. Ironically, it's the same drug flaunted three years ago as the "couch potato pill" for its ability to build muscle and increase endurance in mice that never break a sweat.
The study appeared Sunday in the journal Nature Medicine.
As with the 2008 couch potato study, the researchers have only tested the drug, abbreviated as AICAR, in mice. However, the drug was 100-percent effective in preventing death in these mice genetically engineered to be susceptible to heat stroke. Thus, the finding has implications for anyone exposed to heat or with abnormal heat sensitivity, the researchers said.
Heat stroke is caused by prolonged exposure to temperatures over 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees Celsius), and it is common among the elderly and athletes. Many U.S. soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan suffered from heat stroke brought on by high temperatures and heavy gear.
Some people have a genetic disorder called malignant hyperthermia that places them at high risk for heat stroke, even without the heat. The disorder is associated with a mutation in the RYR1 gene, which causes uncontrolled muscle contractions and increases in body temperature, typically induced by certain drugs such as general anesthesia.