The impact of age, disease and nutrition on human muscle mass and function (sarcopenia)

Professor Olav Rooyackers

The loss of muscle mass is a well know feature of inactivity, disease and aging. During aging the process of muscle loss is slow and takes several decennia. During disease (e.g. diabetes, kidney disease, COPD or cancer cachexia), this is faster and reaches the fastest loss in patients that are critically ill and treated in the intensive care unit (ICU). In this latter group the loss can be as high as 10% per week. Not only muscle mass is lost but also muscle function is compromised in these situation. This loss of function is not only due to the loss of muscle mass but is often also the result of a loss in muscle quality.

cle consists mostly of proteins and the loss of muscle mass and function is therefore most often a loss of muscle protein. Changes in muscle protein are due to changes in muscle protein turnover. A loss is than the due to protein breakdown exceeding protein synthesis. Loss of muscle function during aging and disease has different mechanisms with the loss during aging most likely a reduced response in protein synthesis due to feeding (anabolic resistance) and in the critically ill patients it is mainly the result of a dramatically increased protein breakdown. To design or test therapies to prevent, reduce or counteract the muscle loss one needs to know the underlying mechanisms for the loss: should one aim at stimulating protein synthesis or inhibiting protein breakdown.


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