Every morning I wake up and stare inquisitively at myself in the mirror. And every morning, someone who looks alarmingly like my mother stares right back.
Now to be fair, I’ve always born a striking resemblance to my mom, though it seems to intensify with each passing day. She and I also share similar voices, similar handwriting, and the same inability to turn down anything made with chocolate.
And now, according to researchers at Hebrew SeniorLife’s Institute for Aging Research (IFAR) along with several other institutions, my mother and I will most likely share similar chances of developing sarcopenia in our later years.
In a recent study published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers confirmed that lean body mass is in fact, highly heritable, meaning it is passed down in our genes. To uncover this, researchers followed more than 100,000 study participants from around the world to discover the genetic determinants of lean mass. Ultimately, the goal was to understand the body’s processes that lead to a loss of muscle mass.
With age, some people develop a condition called “sarcopenia” where they lose critical amounts of muscle mass, to the point that they develop impairments and disabilities. However, not everyone develops sarcopenia in older age. Now that scientists have determined that lean mass is hereditary and thus, so is sarcopenia, they hope to develop new treatments to stop sarcopenia in its tracks.
Douglas Kiel, one of the lead investigators of the study and Director of IFAR’s Musculoskeletal Research Center said, “The loss of lean mass with aging represents primarily an indicator of the loss of muscle mass. Muscle mass is important for mobility and physical function as we age, and muscle mass significantly contributes to the body’s metabolism. By understanding the genetic basis for lean mass, we hope to identify novel potential targets that could be used to develop therapies to preserve lean mass.”
While we are still a long way from new sarcopenia treatments, it seems that the mystery of why some people develop this impairment, while others don’t, is explained to some extent by our DNA. We can thank our parents and grandparents for our susceptibility, or lack thereof. However, it is important to note that maintaining a healthy diet and active exercise regimen can help mitigate the effects of sarcopenia as we age.
Now if someone could just pinpoint the root of my chocolate addiction, I might be all set.
About the IFAR Musculoskeletal Research Center
The overarching objective of the Musculoskeletal Research Center at IFAR is to conduct research and disseminate findings on common musculoskeletal conditions of aging such as osteoporosis, osteoarthritis, hyperkyphosis (excessive forward curvature), sarcopenia (loss of muscle mass) and foot disorders, as well as biomechanics of the skeletal system. We promote interdisciplinary research to understand the mechanisms underlying musculoskeletal diseases. We test interventions to prevent the occurrence of disease, its progression and disabling outcomes in older adults.
Learn more about the Musculoskeletal Research Center