A gene that affects muscle growth and maintenance in animals works similarly in humans, a finding that could lead to new treatments for people with muscle-wasting diseases and spur the development of new body-building drugs.

By studying the genes of a German child born with unusually well-developed muscles, researchers at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland found that the child’s Herculean muscles are due to a mutation that silences genes for the protein myostatin.

“This is the first evidence that myostatin regulates muscle mass in people as it does in other animals,” says Hopkins researcher Se-Jin Lee. “That gives us a great deal of hope that agents already known to block myostatin activity in mice may be able to increase muscle mass in humans, too.”

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