Washington: Scientists claim to have finally found how muscles waste away in aged people -- it`s due to the permanent disconnection between nerves and muscles.
An international team says the discovery of the reason behind progressive loss of muscle mass and function in elderly people may open up opportunities for new interventions to slow down muscle loss and improve health and quality of life.
"If your nerves are letting go of muscles, then that is a one-way trip to loss of muscle function," the scientists explained, based on their published observations in aged mice in the `PLoS One` journal.
Compromised muscle function and loss of muscle mass in older age is known as sarcopenia, an increasing health problem with an expanding aged population. Everyone above 60 years is affected by this progressive ageing condition to some degree.
"It is not a disease but part of life," said Prof Tea Shavlakadze and Prof Miranda Grounds at University of Western Australia, who led the research, said in a release.
The scientists said mice aged 29 months (roughly equivalent to 80-year-old humans) showed an alarming absence of healthy connections between nerves and muscles at the contact points for nerve stimulation on muscles.
A loss of connections at these contact points was linked to a lack of cross-talk between nerves and muscles. Muscle activity decreased, leading to loss of function.
The scientists claim that their observations could soon identify a new target for reducing sarcopenia and strengthen the argument for regular exercise to slow down muscle wasting, and they aim to develop new therapeutic approaches to combat muscle loss.