Hope to Arrest Muscle Decline
decline caused by ageing and certain diseases could be dramatically slowed by
stopping a chain reaction that damages cells, new research shows. The
study revealed the previously unknown steps by which dysfunction of
mitochondria - the so-called ‘powerhouses’ of cells - harms muscle health and
leads to atrophy (wasting away).
The research team, from the universities of Exeter and Nottingham (UK) and Tohoku University in Japan, showed that inhibiting various stages of this process suppressed muscle atrophy. The research was carried out on a species of worm called Caenorhabditis elegans - recently used in a muscle study on the International Space Station because their muscle cells resemble those of humans.
Mitochondrial dysfunction is a key feature of several muscle diseases, but treatments are currently limited. Research shows that mitochondrial dysfunction causes calcium to build up in cells, which in turn activates enzymes that degrade collagen. Collagen is vital for giving structure to the outside of cells, so degradation of collagen destabilises muscle.