During aging, people become inactive and lose muscle mass and strength.
In a study from École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne, scientists found that when mice age, their muscles become packed with ceramides.
Ceramides, known for their use in skin care products, are sphingolipids, a class of fat molecules that are not used to produce energy but rather perform different tasks in the cell.
The researchers found that, in aging, there is an overload of the protein SPT and others, all of which are needed to convert fatty acids and amino acids to ceramides.
The team says the sphingolipids and ceramides are complex yet very interesting fat class, and there is high potential to further study their role in aging, as they perform many diverse functions.
Next, the scientists wanted to see whether reducing ceramide overload could prevent age-related decline in muscle function.
They treated old mice with ceramide blockers and blocked ceramide synthesis specifically in muscle.
The ceramide blockers prevented loss of muscle mass during aging, made the mice stronger, and allowed them to run longer distances while improving their coordination.
The scientists also looked at whether reducing ceramides in muscle could also be beneficial in humans.
They examined thousands of 70–80-year-old men and women from Helsinki, and discovered that 25% of them have a particular form of a gene that reduces the gene products of sphingolipid production pathways in muscle.
The people who had this ceramide-reducing gene form were able to walk longer, be stronger, and were better able to stand up from a chair, indicating healthier aging, similar to mice treated with ceramide blockers.
The team says these findings are very important as they provide a strong incentive to develop inhibitors that could be tested in humans.
The scientists are now embarking on collaborations with pharmaceutical industry.
If you care about muscle, please read studies about the cause of weak muscles in older people, and this oil may boost muscle function and size in older people.
For more information about health, please see recent studies about plant nutrient that could help reduce high blood pressure, and results showing eating protein during dieting could prevent muscle loss.
The study was conducted by Pirkka-Pekka Laurila et al and published in Nature Aging.
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