A Pill Could Give Older People Youthful Muscles, Healing FactorS

As the body ages, muscles become more likely to atrophy and less able to regenerate quickly, right? If nature had its way, yes — but now scientists may have discovered a way to make old muscle feel younger again.

New research, led by UC Berkeley's Irina Conboy, has proven that older muscle doesn't just not react well to sudden exercise (regenerating four times slower than younger muscle), but that it can react badly to it, creating scar tissue instead of renegerating. As Conroy explains,

The old muscle also didn't recover as well with exercise... This emphasizes the importance of older populations staying active because the evidence is that for their muscle, long periods of disuse may irrevocably worsen the stem cells' regenerative environment... It's like a Catch-22.

However, the research discovered the existence of an enzyme in the human body called mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK), which regulates a muscle-growth-triggering receptor called Notch. In older bodies, MAPK levels were so low that Notch didn't become active, according to Conroy, but luckily science can fix that; the scientists cultured old human muscle in the lab, artificially activated MAPK and saw the muscle's regenerative ability soar. For Conroy, this discovery is just the start:

In practical terms, we now know that to enhance regeneration of old human muscle and restore tissue health, we can either target the MAPK or the Notch pathways... The ultimate goal, of course, is to move this research toward clinical trials.

And then, we hope, defeat the aging process altogether. Or, at least, find a way to reverse my male pattern baldness.

Clock Turned Back on Aging Muscles, Researchers Claim [LiveScience]