Scientists discover protein that helps maintain motor skills as we age

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Researchers at EPFL have found a way to help preserve motor skills in aging fruit flies by boosting a protein called Trio.

This discovery could lead to treatments for age-related movement decline in humans.

As we get older, our ability to move and perform physical activities declines, affecting our quality of life and independence.

This decline is due to changes at neuromuscular junctions, where nerve cells communicate with muscles.

These junctions degrade over time, causing reduced motor ability, especially for strenuous movements.

The EPFL team, led by Brian McCabe, discovered that the protein Trio plays a crucial role in maintaining these neuromuscular junctions. In fruit flies, levels of Trio decrease with age, leading to a decline in motor skills.

By increasing Trio levels in aging fruit flies, the researchers were able to preserve the integrity of motor synapses and delay the loss of motor strength.

Their findings, published in Cell Reports, offer hope for new treatments to combat age-related motor decline.

The team first observed that Trio levels drop in motor synapses as fruit flies age. To understand the impact of this protein, they genetically increased Trio expression in older fruit flies. This allowed them to study how higher Trio levels affect the stability and function of neuromuscular junctions.

Using confocal microscopy, the researchers visualized the structure of these junctions, which are crucial for maintaining motor function. They also conducted biochemical tests to measure protein levels and activity within the synapses.

These experiments showed that increasing Trio levels helped maintain the structural integrity of neuromuscular junctions, preventing their fragmentation.

The fruit flies with elevated Trio levels showed significantly better motor skills in middle age compared to normal flies. These flies were able to sustain high neurotransmitter release rates, which are essential for muscle movement, similar to younger flies.

This research highlights the importance of maintaining synapse integrity to preserve motor function as we age. By boosting Trio protein levels, it may be possible to stabilize the structure of synapses and reduce the decline in motor ability. The findings open up new possibilities for developing treatments that target synaptic degradation in age-related motor impairments.

Overall, this study provides a promising avenue for future therapies aimed at improving the quality of life for aging individuals by preserving their motor skills.

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