Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Muscle atrophy


Flavonoids have attracted considerable attention in relation to their effects upon health. 8-Prenylnaringenin (8-PN) is found in the common hop (Humulus lupulus) and assumed to be responsible for the health impact of beer consumption. We wanted to clarify the effects of prenylation on the physiological functions of dietary flavonoids by comparing the effects of 8-PN with that of intact naringenin in the prevention of disuse muscle atrophy using a model of denervation in mice. Consumption of 8-PN (but not naringenin) prevented loss of weight in the gastrocnemius muscle further supported by the lack of induction of the protein content of a key ubiquitin ligase involved in muscle atrophy, atrogin-1, and by the activation of Akt phosphorylation. 8-PN content in the gastrocnemius muscle was tenfold higher than that of naringenin. These results suggested that, compared with naringenin, 8-PN was effectively concentrated into skeletal muscle to exert its preventive effects upon disuse muscle atrophy. It is likely that prenylation generates novel functions for 8-PN by enhancing its accumulation into muscle tissue through dietary intake.

Concepts: Nutrition, Muscle, Posttranslational modification, Muscle atrophy, Atrophy, Humulus lupulus, Hops, Humulus


Sarcopenia, or senile muscle atrophy, is the slow and progressive loss of muscle mass with advancing age that constitutes the most prevalent form of muscle atrophy. The effects of ageing on skeletal muscle have been extensively studied in humans and laboratory animals (mice), while the few reports on wild animals are based on short-lived mammals. The present study describes the age-related changes in cetacean muscles regarding the three factors that determine muscle mass: fibre size, fibre number, and fibre type. We show that the skeletal muscle fibres in cetaceans change with advancing age, evolving towards a slower muscle phenotype. We suggest that this physiological evolution constitutes an adaptation that allows these marine mammals to perform prolonged, deep dives.

Concepts: Muscle, Cardiac muscle, Glycogen, Muscle atrophy, Myosin, Muscular system, Acetylcholine, Atrophy


Sarcopenia results from the progressive loss of skeletal muscle mass and reduced function in older age. It is likely to be associated with the well-documented reduction of motor unit numbers innervating limb muscles and the increase in size of surviving motor units via reinnervation of denervated fibres. However no evidence currently exists to confirm the extent of motor unit remodelling in sarcopenic individuals. The aim of the present study was to compare motor unit size and number between young (n = 48), non-sarcopenic old (n = 13), pre-sarcopenic (n = 53) and sarcopenic (n = 29) men. Motor unit potentials (MUPs) were isolated from intramuscular and surface electromyographic recordings. The motor unit numbers were reduced in all groups of old compared with young (all P < 0.001). Motor unit potentials were enlarged in non-sarcopenic and pre-sarcopenic men compared with young (P = 0.039 and 0.001 respectively), but not in the VL of sarcopenic old (P = 0.485). The results suggest that extensive motor unit remodelling occurs relatively early during ageing, exceeds the loss of muscle mass and precedes sarcopenia. Reinnervation of denervated muscle fibres likely expands the motor unit size in non-sarcopenic and pre-sarcopenic old, but not in the sarcopenic old. These findings suggest that a failure to expand the motor unit size distinguishes sarcopenic from pre-sarcopenic muscles. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Concepts: Muscle, Cardiac muscle, Glycogen, Muscle atrophy, Sarcopenia, Myosin, Electromyography, Muscular system


The ultimate goal of muscular dystrophy gene therapy is to treat all muscles in the body. Global gene delivery was demonstrated in dystrophic mice more than a decade ago using adeno-associated virus (AAV). However, translation to affected large mammals has been challenging. The only reported attempt was performed in newborn Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) dogs. Unfortunately, AAV injection resulted in growth delay, muscle atrophy and contracture. Here we report safe and bodywide AAV delivery in juvenile DMD dogs. Three ∼2-m-old affected dogs received intravenous injection of a tyrosine-engineered AAV-9 reporter or micro-dystrophin vector at the doses of 1.92 to 6.24 x 10(14) viral genome particles/kg under transient immune suppression. DMD dogs tolerated injection well and their growth was not altered. Hematology and blood biochemistry were unremarkable. No adverse reactions were observed. Widespread muscle transduction was seen in skeletal muscle, the diaphragm and heart for at least four months (the end of the study). Nominal expression was detected in internal organs. Improvement in muscle histology was observed in micro-dystrophin treated dogs. In summary, systemic AAV gene transfer is safe and efficient in young adult dystrophic large mammals. This may translate to bodywide gene therapy in pediatric patients in the future.

Concepts: Gene, Virus, Heart, Muscle, Muscle atrophy, Muscular dystrophy, Atrophy, Gene therapy


Cancer cachexia negatively impacts cancer-related treatment options, quality of life, morbidity, and mortality, yet no established therapies exist. We investigated the anabolic properties of testosterone to limit the loss of body mass in late stage cancer patients undergoing standard of care cancer treatment.

Concepts: Epidemiology, Cancer, Oncology, Cancer staging, Cachexia, Weight loss, Muscle atrophy, Anabolic steroid


Glucocorticoid steroids such as prednisone are prescribed for chronic muscle conditions such as Duchenne muscular dystrophy, where their use is associated with prolonged ambulation. The positive effects of chronic steroid treatment in muscular dystrophy are paradoxical because these steroids are also known to trigger muscle atrophy. Chronic steroid use usually involves once-daily dosing, although weekly dosing in children has been suggested for its reduced side effects on behavior. In this work, we tested steroid dosing in mice and found that a single pulse of glucocorticoid steroids improved sarcolemmal repair through increased expression of annexins A1 and A6, which mediate myofiber repair. This increased expression was dependent on glucocorticoid response elements upstream of annexins and was reinforced by the expression of forkhead box O1 (FOXO1). We compared weekly versus daily steroid treatment in mouse models of acute muscle injury and in muscular dystrophy and determined that both regimens provided comparable benefits in terms of annexin gene expression and muscle repair. However, daily dosing activated atrophic pathways, including F-box protein 32 (Fbxo32), which encodes atrogin-1. Conversely, weekly steroid treatment in mdx mice improved muscle function and histopathology and concomitantly induced the ergogenic transcription factor Krüppel-like factor 15 (Klf15) while decreasing Fbxo32. These findings suggest that intermittent, rather than daily, glucocorticoid steroid regimen promotes sarcolemmal repair and muscle recovery from injury while limiting atrophic remodeling.

Concepts: Gene, Gene expression, Transcription, Muscle, Transcription factor, Muscle atrophy, Glucocorticoid, Atrophy


PGC-1α is a transcriptional coactivator induced by exercise that gives muscle many of the best known adaptations to endurance-type exercise but has no effects on muscle strength or hypertrophy. We have identified a form of PGC-1α (PGC-1α4) that results from alternative promoter usage and splicing of the primary transcript. PGC-1α4 is highly expressed in exercised muscle but does not regulate most known PGC-1α targets such as the mitochondrial OXPHOS genes. Rather, it specifically induces IGF1 and represses myostatin, and expression of PGC-1α4 in vitro and in vivo induces robust skeletal muscle hypertrophy. Importantly, mice with skeletal muscle-specific transgenic expression of PGC-1α4 show increased muscle mass and strength and dramatic resistance to the muscle wasting of cancer cachexia. Expression of PGC-1α4 is preferentially induced in mouse and human muscle during resistance exercise. These studies identify a PGC-1α protein that regulates and coordinates factors involved in skeletal muscle hypertrophy.

Concepts: Gene, Gene expression, Muscle, Muscle atrophy, Muscular system, Strength training, Atrophy, Exercise physiology


Neuromuscular junction degeneration is a prominent aspect of sarcopenia, the age-associated loss of skeletal muscle integrity. Previously, we showed that muscle stem cells activate and contribute to mouse neuromuscular junction regeneration in response to denervation (1). Here, we examined gene expression profiles and neuromuscular junction integrity in aged mouse muscles, and unexpectedly found limited denervation despite a high level of degenerated neuromuscular junctions. Instead, degenerated neuromuscular junctions were associated with reduced contribution from muscle stem cells. Indeed, muscle stem cell depletion was sufficient to induce neuromuscular junction degeneration at a younger age. Conversely, prevention of muscle stem cell and derived myonuclei loss was associated with attenuation of age-related neuromuscular junction degeneration, muscle atrophy, and the promotion of aged muscle force generation. Our observations demonstrate that deficiencies in muscle stem cell fate and post-synaptic myogenesis provide a cellular basis for age-related neuromuscular junction degeneration and associated skeletal muscle decline.

Concepts: Gene, Cell, Muscle, Action potential, Muscle atrophy, Skeletal muscle, Acetylcholine, Neuromuscular junction


Low-carbohydrate, high-fat diets (ketogenic diets) might prevent tumor progression and could be used as supportive therapy; however, few studies have addressed the effect of such diets on colorectal cancer. An infant formula with a ketogenic composition (ketogenic formula; KF) is used to treat patients with refractory epilepsy. We investigated the effect of KF on cancer and cancer cachexia in colon tumor-bearing mice. Mice were randomized into normal (NR), tumor-bearing (TB), and ketogenic formula (KF) groups. Colon 26 cells were inoculated subcutaneously into TB and KF mice. The NR and TB groups received a standard diet, and the KF mice received KFad libitum. KF mice preserved their body, muscle, and carcass weights. Tumor weight and plasma IL-6 levels were significantly lower in KF mice than in TB mice. In the KF group, energy intake was significantly higher than that in the other two groups. Blood ketone body concentrations in KF mice were significantly elevated, and there was a significant negative correlation between blood ketone body concentration and tumor weight. Therefore, KF may suppress the progression of cancer and the accompanying systemic inflammation without adverse effects on weight gain, or muscle mass, which might help to prevent cancer cachexia.

Concepts: Immune system, Cancer, Oncology, Metabolism, Colorectal cancer, Muscle atrophy, Ketone bodies, Ketogenic diet


A substantial number of patients admitted to the ICU because of an acute illness, complicated surgery, severe trauma, or burn injury will develop a de novo form of muscle weakness during the ICU stay that is referred to as “intensive care unit acquired weakness” (ICUAW). This ICUAW evoked by critical illness can be due to axonal neuropathy, primary myopathy, or both. Underlying pathophysiological mechanisms comprise microvascular, electrical, metabolic, and bioenergetic alterations, interacting in a complex way and culminating in loss of muscle strength and/or muscle atrophy. ICUAW is typically symmetrical and affects predominantly proximal limb muscles and respiratory muscles, whereas facial and ocular muscles are often spared. The main risk factors for ICUAW include high severity of illness upon admission, sepsis, multiple organ failure, prolonged immobilization, and hyperglycemia, and also older patients have a higher risk. The role of corticosteroids and neuromuscular blocking agents remains unclear. ICUAW is diagnosed in awake and cooperative patients by bedside manual testing of muscle strength and the severity is scored by the Medical Research Council sum score. In cases of atypical clinical presentation or evolution, additional electrophysiological testing may be required for differential diagnosis. The cornerstones of prevention are aggressive treatment of sepsis, early mobilization, preventing hyperglycemia with insulin, and avoiding the use parenteral nutrition during the first week of critical illness. Weak patients clearly have worse acute outcomes and consume more healthcare resources. Recovery usually occurs within weeks or months, although it may be incomplete with weakness persisting up to 2 years after ICU discharge. Prognosis appears compromised when the cause of ICUAW involves critical illness polyneuropathy, whereas isolated critical illness myopathy may have a better prognosis. In addition, ICUAW has shown to contribute to the risk of 1-year mortality. Future research should focus on new preventive and/or therapeutic strategies for this detrimental complication of critical illness and on clarifying how ICUAW contributes to poor longer-term prognosis.

Concepts: Metabolism, Medical terms, Intensive care medicine, Muscle, Muscle atrophy, Muscular system, Atrophy, Neuromuscular disease