Aging Causes Muscle Weakness And Atrophy, But Can We Treat It?

Posted on 13 September 2015

Credit: Lin Mei

Credit: Lin Mei

Everything starts to go downhill as we get older and muscle is no exception; even simple tasks become challenging as we lose bone and muscle. Now research has identified a protein behind this age-related decline and therapeutic molecules that can fight it, helping individuals stay healthy and strong for longer.  A team at the Univesity of Iowa has discovered that a protein called ATF4 might be behind muscular decline. ATF 4 is a transcription factor, which means it tells the body to activate or regulate certain genes. ATF4 seems to change skeletal muscle with age, reducing protein synthesis and overall mass. 

“Many of us know from our own experiences that muscle weakness and atrophy are big problems as we become older”

What can we do about it? Researchers also identified two molecules that dramatically reduce this age-related decline in mice: ursolic acid from apple peels, and tomatidine, present in green tomatoes. When elderly mice were fed either of these compounds, muscle mass was increased by 10% and muscle strength by 30% – essentially restoring their muscles to a youthful state. 
These compounds could be translated into concentrated supplements 

These compounds could be translated into concentrated supplements 

“Based on these results, ursolic acid and tomatidine appear to have a lot of potential as tools for dealing with muscle weakness and atrophy during aging. We also thought we might be able to use ursolic acid and tomatidine as tools to find a root cause of muscle weakness and atrophy during aging.”

As they explored further, the team found that both compounds switch off genes that ATF4 activates. When they then engineered mice without ATF4, they actually proved resistant to muscular aging. 

“By reducing ATF4 activity, ursolic acid and tomatidine allow skeletal muscle to recover from effects of aging” 

Read more at Medicalxpress

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