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N-Acetylglucosamine accelerates the formation of muscle fibers

Maybe athletes build up more muscles in the long term if they take a few grams of N-acetylglucosamine every day. We formulate it cautiously, because we base ourselves mainly on in vitro research. And an animal study - but then an animal study with mice with a muscle disease.

If you stick an acetyl group to the molecule of glucosamine, you get N-acetylglucosamine. The body manufactures N-acetylglucosamine by metabolizing glucosamine, but scientists suspect that only a fraction of orally administered glucosamine is converted into N-acetylglucosamine. That is why supplements manufacturers, in addition to glucosamine, also market N-acetylglucosamine.

N-Acetylglucosamine accelerates the formation of muscle fibers

These supplements are meant to make joints healthier. Glucosamine and N-acetylglucosamine are the raw materials of hyaluronic acid, an important polymer in joints.

Researchers at the University of Laval in Canada suspect that N-acetylglucosamine also has a function in muscle development. When young muscle cells form muscle fibera, they use N-acetylglucosamine as glue to stick together. This could mean that supplementation with N-acetylglucosamine has a muscle-building effect.

Even outside of sport there is great interest in muscle building resources. Researchers like the Canadians are still feverishly looking for ways to slow down muscular diseases such as Duchenne's disease. And so the Canadians wondered: is N-acetylglucosamine such a drug?

In vitro study
The researchers had young muscle cells in a test tube form fibers at different concentrations of N-acetylglucosamine for 62 hours. N-Acetylglucosamine accelerated that process.

N-Acetylglucosamine accelerates the formation of muscle fibers

The figure above suggests that the optimal concentration is perhaps 1 millimole. That is on the high side.

Below you can see the effect of exposure to 1 millimole N-acetylglucosamine for 72 hours.

N-Acetylglucosamine accelerates the formation of muscle fibers

Animal study
The researchers gave young mdx mice - say: mice with Duchenne's disease - a daily large dose of N-acetylglucosamine for 10 days. If the mice had been human adults, they had been given 3-4 grams of N-acetylglucosamine daily. After supplementation, the researchers compared the muscles of the animals with those of mdx mice that had not received N-acetylglucosamine.

The supplementation had reduced muscle damage and made the muscles stronger. The researchers had stimulated the muscles electrically, and determined how much weight the muscles could get in motion.

N-Acetylglucosamine accelerates the formation of muscle fibers

"We present the evidence that [...] N-acetylglucosamine, [...] [has] interesting therapeutic potential for mitigating some symptoms associated with Duchenne muscular dystrophy", write the Canadians. "This current study suggests the therapeutic potential of short-term treatment with N-acetylglucosamine in the peak of muscle degeneration / regeneration in mdx mice, although it remains to be investigated whether long-term treatment with N-acetylglucosamine continuously alleviates the progression of Duchenne muscular dystrophy."

"Although further study is essential to understanding the mechanism by which [...] N-acetylglucosamine mitigate[s] Duchenne muscular dystrophy and promote myogenesis, the present study indicates that using N-acetylglucosamine as a supplemental agent may present an interesting class of therapy for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, especially because the safety of this inexpensive monosaccharide is relatively established in humans."

FASEB J. 2018 Jun 12:fj201701151RRR. [Epub ahead of print].

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