Sarcopenia refers to the loss of muscle cells and strength which occurs with age in otherwise healthy individuals. In fact sarcopenia is a major contributor to age related frailty and associated conditions such as falls, fractures, gait problems and death.
It has remained unclear why muscle cells deteriorate and die with age. Brand new research out of Columbia University appears to identify the mechanism of this cell death and demonstrates a drug which may treat it.
The study published in Cell Metabolism reveals that sarcopenia in mice is caused when calcium leaks from muscle cells through a protein called the ryanodine channel receptor complex.
As cells age it appears that free radicals build up and damage the receptor complex leading to leakage of calcium. The calcium leak then poisons the mitochondria which are the energy generating stations within the muscle cells. This then causes the cells to weaken and die.
The researchers were also able to test an experimental drug called S107 on older mice who had developed this calcium leak. This drug stabilizes a protein called calstabin1 which binds to the ryanodine receptor and prevents calcium leak.
The study showed that in 24 month old mice (equivalent to 70 year old humans), S107 administration resulted in a 50% improvement in strength.
The study’s lead author Andrew Marks consults with a start-up company called ARMGO Pharma which hopes move the drug into the market once larger human trials are completed.
Reference (Cell Metabolism)