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As next-generation weight-loss treatments like Wegovy and Zepbound continue to fly off the shelves, scientists are busy working on a medicine that could mimic the effects of exercise.

As explained in an American Chemical Society press release, trials thus far on SLU-PP-332, the potentially groundbreaking compound in question, show that it seems "capable of mimicking the physical boost of working out."

"We cannot replace exercise; exercise is important on all levels," Bahaa Elgendy, an anesthesiology professor at Washington University Medical School in St. Louis who serves as the principal investigator of the new compound, said in the press release. "If I can exercise, I should go ahead and get the physical activity. But there are so many cases in which a substitute is needed."

Elgendy is slated to present at the ACS annual spring meeting this week about the compound, which has shown promising results and few side effects in rodent cells — though as a University of Florida study about SLU-PP-332 from last fall noted, there will need to be more animal studies to test out its safety before human trials can be conducted.

All the same, it's taken years for scientists to go from theorizing about low side-effect "exercise mimetics" — as the branch of potential workout-in-a-pill medications are called — to actually conducting animal trials on them and beginning to prepare them for humans.

In an interview with Fortune, Elgendy was optimistic about the many ways an SLU-PP-332 pill could help those who can't exercise due to illness or physical disability, or even those who've lost weight rapidly from weight-loss medicines but haven't shored up their muscles yet.

"It can complement exercise programs to give more benefits to patients as well," the doctor told the magazine. "Or it can be combined with the new wave of drugs: antidiabetic drugs and drugs that are used for obesity and weight loss."

SLU-PP-332 was, as the ACS press release notes, identified after more than a decade of study into specialized proteins known as estrogen-related receptors, or ERRs. After looking closely at the structure of these proteins and the molecules that bind them to others, Elgendy and his fellow scientists literally designed new molecules to synthesize and mimic the activation of ERRs — hence the new compound.

Specifically, the compound is said to increase "a fatigue-resistant type of muscle fiber while also improving the animals' endurance when they ran on a rodent treadmill," which could make workouts easier and more effective once humans can take it, too.

It will be, as Elgendy told Fortune, at least five years before humans are able to take SLU-PP-332 as it continues to go through animal and eventual human trials — but the prospect of a safe pill that mimics exercise is, for a lot people, worth the wait.

More on medicines of the future: Scientists Working on Drug to Indefinitely Delay Menopause

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