Scientists at McMaster University in Canada have made a significant discovery about how to maintain muscle strength during the ageing process. Until now, why muscle strength is lost as the body ages and how exercise can counteract this has not been fully understood.
Published in Cell Metabolism, the research revealed that the presence of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is crucial in slowing the decline of muscle during ageing.
"Mice lacking AMPK in their muscle developed much greater muscle weakness than we would have expected to see in a middle-aged mouse. Instead these mice, which were the equivalent of being just 50 years old, had muscles like that of an inactive 100-year-old," explained Gregory Steinberg, senior author of the study and professor of medicine at the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine. He is also co-director of MAC-Obesity, the Metabolism and Childhood Obesity Research Program at McMaster.
The research could lead to drug treatments to help prevent or slow muscle wasting during older age, as well as inform more effective exercise programmes with the same goal in mind. Intense exercise and certain medicines used to treat type-2 diabetes are already known to activate the AMPK pathway.
"By knowing that AMPK is vital for maintaining muscle mass with aging, we can now try to adapt exercise regimes and existing drugs to switch on AMPK in muscle more effectively. The development of new selective activators of the AMPK pathway in muscle may also be effective to prevent muscle loss with aging," added Professor Steinberg.
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