A natural hormone may protect muscle from atrophy

Jun 11, 2009

Researchers have found a potential new treatment for the common problem of muscle atrophy.

Muscular atrophy is a debilitating process that results in an extensive loss of muscle mass and function, which greatly worsens quality of life. It occurs in diseases such as cancer, diabetes, AIDS and , negatively affecting the patients' prognosis. Also, muscular atrophy can occur with aging, inadequate food intake such as in anorexia nervosa, or disuse (in those who are bedridden or who must keep a limb immobile) or as a side effect of glucocorticoid steroid therapy. Nerve injury also triggers severe muscular atrophy.

Currently, there are few options to treat the problem. Some of the treatments, such as anabolic steroids (testosterone) and insulin-like growth factor 1 (IFG-1), raise concerns about safety and effectiveness, said study co-author Andrea Graziani, PhD. He is a molecular biologist with the Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine and the Biotechnology Center for Applied Medical Research, University of Piemonte Orientale, Novara, Italy.

"Because of the wide impact of muscular atrophy on public health, it is of pivotal importance to find new and better drug strategies to treat it," Graziani said.

Graziani and his co-workers are studying des-acyl ghrelin, a form of ghrelin, the appetite-stimulating hormone found in the body. Until recently, researchers thought that des-acyl ghrelin was inactive because it does not share the main activities of ghrelin—stimulating appetite, fat and the release of growth hormone.

However, Graziani's group recently found that des-acyl ghrelin shares some biological activities with ghrelin, such as stimulating differentiation of other cells, including—important to this study—cells that are precursors to skeletal muscle cells.

In this new study, the researchers discovered that des-acyl ghrelin has a direct anti-atrophic activity on the skeletal muscle of mice with muscular atrophy caused by either denervation (nerve injury) or fasting. Mice that were genetically altered to have increased levels of des-acyl ghrelin had less skeletal muscle loss than the untreated control mice. This held true for both causes of .

The mechanism by which des-acyl ghrelin protects muscle against atrophy is not yet known, the authors reported. However, it is distinct from the action of anabolic steroids and IGF-1.

Source: The Endocrine Society (news : web)

Explore further: First successful vaccination against 'mad cow'-like wasting disease in deer

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Fatty foods fire up hunger hormone

Jun 06, 2009

New research led by the University of Cincinnati (UC) suggests that the hunger hormone ghrelin is activated by fats from the foods we eat—not those made in the body—in order to optimize nutrient metabolism and promote ...

Muscle atrophy through thick but not thin

Jun 08, 2009

During desperate times, such as fasting, or muscle wasting that afflicts cancer or AIDS patients, the body cannibalizes itself, atrophying and breaking down skeletal muscle proteins to liberate amino acids. In a new study ...

Rare window on spinal muscular atrophy genetics

Apr 07, 2009

Caused by a mutation of the SMN gene, spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is an infantile and juvenile neurodegenerative disorder where motor neuron loss causes progressive paralysis. A new study published in the open access journal ...

Recommended for you

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.