Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Maintaining a healthy physique in the later decades

I remember that the last time Sylvester Stallone tried to enter Australia he got into "difficulties" with Customs and Immigration because he was bringing in some "illegal" substances. These turned out to be, again if my memory is correct, injectable Testosterone - a performance enhancing drug - that was for his personal use: and that use was to help maintain his muscle bulk. Well, according to press photographs, the testosterone has worked, and is one of the few treatments available for the inevitable muscle loss that accompanies aging. This muscle loss, known as Sacopaenia, begins around the age of 40 and becomes more pronounced after the age of 75: all the "motor" muscles lose bulk, speed and strength. In fact, scientist now believe that this process is similar to that which occurs in the pathological disease of Muscular dystrophy, because they have deciphered the role that Calcium plays in both process and the method by which it gets into, and out of, muscle cells.

Most of us associate Calcium with bones, but it's a much more ubiquitous chemical in the body and is found in many cell types - especially skeletal and heart muscle. If you can't control the status of calcium within you muscle cells, then it fails and weakens - a finding that the experts at Columbia University Medical Center have confirmed with their research. Apparently it's all to do with leaky ryanodine receptors according to Andrew R. Marks, M.D., chairman and professor of physiology and cellular biophysics and lead reasearcher for the team, who has been studying these receptors since 1989.

 He and his colleagues have developed a drug that stabilizes these receptors - well in mice anyway - and they are currently trialling a similar drug for heart failure, because  these same receptors leak in this condition too.

But back to Sylvester: "Most investigators in the field of aging have been saying that the way to improve muscle strength is to build muscle mass, using such therapies as testosterone, growth hormone, and insulin-like growth factor-1," says Dr. Marks. "But an increase in muscle mass is not necessarily accompanied by an increase in muscle function. Our results suggest that you can improve muscle function by fixing leaky calcium channels. And in fact, treating aged mice .... enhanced muscle strength without increasing muscle size, at least during the four-week treatment period."

So for all of you who got sand kicked in your face earlier on in life, if the experts come up trumps, you might just get your own back when it comes to retirement time.

 Story source: Science Daily Aug 3rd 2011
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