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Novel approach to promote healthy muscle aging

senior person

Sarcopenia is the age-related loss of muscle mass and strength impacting approximately 20% of adults aged 65 years and older. It leads to the loss of balance, mobility and the overall inability to perform daily activities such as walking up a stairway.

Sarcopenia also increases the like-hood of falls and fractures in older adults, leading to a loss of independence and reduced quality of life. As sarcopenia contributes to increased healthcare costs for patients and society as a whole, therapeutic strategies to promote heathy muscle aging are needed.

Nestlé Research scientists, in collaboration with academics from the University of Toulouse in France and the University of Florida in US, set out to discover early diagnostic tools and strategies that could help to improve muscle function and sarcopenia.

Results of the research were published in Nature Medicine, a high impact scientific journal. Among the findings, it was discovered that in older people, muscle stem cells lose the capacity to respond to signaling from the peptide apelin, which is produced when muscles contract during exercise. 

However, when apelin signaling was restored, it was found to promote muscle healing by activating the regenerative capacity of muscle stem cells, and also to significantly enhance muscle strength. The researchers conclude that improving apelin signaling via the use of novel therapeutic approaches including nutrition supplements could be beneficial for healthy muscle aging. In addition, blood levels of apelin could also be used as a biomarker for the diagnosis of sarcopenia and to better understand the efficacy of nutritional solutions and exercise programs.

“Production of apelin during exercise gets inefficient when one ages” says Jerome Feige, head of Musculo-Skeletal Heath at Nestlé Research and one of the senior authors of the study. “However, providing apelin therapeutically can help to make aged muscles younger and more efficient.”

These research findings are important as they could be applied to help older adults improve muscle function, which would enhance physical autonomy of seniors and delay nursing home entry.