APPS November 2002 Meeting Abstract 127


Gordon S. Lynch, Paul Gregorevic, David R. Plant Muscle Mechanics Laboratory, Department of Physiology, the University of Melbourne, Victoria, 3010, Australia.

Some of the most serious consequences of aging are its effects on skeletal muscle structure and function. Aging is associated with a progressive loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia), a slowing of movement, and a decline in strength. These age-related changes in muscle properties contribute to the gradual loss of functional independence and the increased incidence of fall-related injuries in the elderly. Progressive muscle fibre denervation and subsequent motor unit remodelling have been implicated as mechanisms responsible for the loss of force and power output with aging1. However, the age-related reduction in the speed of contraction has been reported to occur before the onset of severe muscle wasting, indicating that age-related changes intrinsic to skeletal muscle fibres cannot be excluded. A decrease in circulating levels of anabolic hormones and growth factors likely contributes to the changes in the size and strength of skeletal muscles of older people2. Some of these growth factors are responsible for the repair of muscle tissue during everyday “wear and tear”. From a public health perspective, sarcopenia has widespread clinical implications. Diminished functional strength with age increases the dependence of the frail elderly on assistance for accomplishing even the most basic tasks required for independent living. Research into aging and muscle function is of increasing importance to the community as the number and proportion of older people in the population continues to escalate. It is generally agreed that the age-related changes in skeletal muscle are inevitable, although debate exists as to whether these intrinsic changes can be delayed or reversed. A number of strategies are under investigation that can potentially slow the effects of aging on muscle function, improve muscle repair following injury, and/or restore muscle size and strength in the frail elderly so as to improve quality of life.

(1) Lynch GS, Hinkle RT, Brooks SV, Chamberlain JS, Faulkner JA. Journal of Physiology. 2001;535:591-600.

(2) Lynch GS. Expert Opinion on Therapeutic Patents. 2002;12:11-27.

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