Understanding and combating age-related muscle weakness: MYOAGE challenge

Abstract

Ageing is a hot topic due to the changing demography of developed countries that have seen life expectancy reach an all-time high. The percentage of the population made up of people aged over 65 years increased in all European Union (EU) member countries between 1985 and 2011 and is projected to further increase in all EU countries over the next 20 years. The continuing improvement in mortality rates is an achievement to be celebrated, but we must not overlook the problem that most people aged over 65 years report long-standing illness or disability that reduces their quality of life and restricts their ability to be economically or socially active. Among the many comorbidities of ageing, musculoskeletal dysfunctions are the most common. Thus, a major challenge to researchers, government and, in fact, society at large, is to find ways to preserve health and vitality into older age. In the elderly, muscles become atrophic (loss in muscle mass) and weaker (loss in muscle force), more susceptible to damage and regenerate and recover more slowly than was the case in their youth. Understanding and combating age-related muscle weakness requires a precise definition of the elderly population in terms of mobility and repair capacity, based upon assessment and identification of both physiological and molecular indicators and integration of this data to replace the fragmented and dispersed knowledge that we have of age related muscle weakness. Ageing is a general process of the organism, in which a decline in the proliferation of the progenitors, a lower income of nutrients through vasculature as well as a decreased efficiency of the cellular machinery to metabolize these nutrients, and a less effective dialogue with the other systems participating to the muscle function, result finally in muscle weakness and frailty. Muscle ageing is thus necessarily a multi-component process which will involve as targets the muscle cells, the inflammatory process that increases with aging, as well as weaker tendons and less effective control by the nerves. Combating muscle weakness requires an integrated multi-disciplinary approach that gathers expertise from gerontologists, epidemiologists, cellular and molecular biologists and physiologists. This special issue of Biogerontology G. Butler-Browne (&) V. Mouly Université Pierre et Marie Curie, Paris 6, UM76, Institut de Myologie, 47, bd de l’Hôpital, Paris 75013, France e-mail: gillian.butler-browne@upmc.fr

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