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Sarcopenia-the significant loss of muscle mass and function that can occur as we age-is associated with many chronic conditions such as diabetes, high cholesterol and obesity. In findings published online ahead of publication in the
When people strength train the body responds by making muscle. The researchers recruited 16 healthy but sedentary men to perform a single bout of resistance exercise to trigger muscle growth and examined tissue samples taken before and six hours after the exercise. Half of the men were in their twenties and the other half in their seventies.
"In order for the body to make proteins that build muscle, certain genes need to be turned on," said lead author
Rivas and colleagues observed that the level of microRNAs, small RNA molecules that have a prominent role in regulating genes, was lower in the muscle tissue of the older men, compared to younger men. "One of the steps in building muscle seems to be missing in the older men, preventing them from responding to the exercise as strongly as the younger men did," Rivas said. "It is possible that the suppression of these microRNAs is setting off a chain of events that is causing older people to be less efficient in developing muscle."
With the population of older adults in
In addition to resistance exercises, scientists are exploring different approaches to preserving and building muscle mass in older adults. "A few studies suggest gene therapy, nutrient supplementation or hormone replacement therapy can assist with building muscle," said Fielding, who is also a professor at the
The authors note the small size of the study necessitates future research in clinical models and in men and women, particularly those who have sarcopenia.
The researchers were supported by funding from the
Rivas DA, Lessard SJ, Rice NP, Lustgarden MS, So K, Goodyear LJ, Parnell LD and Fielding RA. "Diminished skeletal muscle microRNA expression with aging is associated with attenuated muscle plasticity and inhibition of IGF-1 signaling."
For three decades, the
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