Muscle wasting already affects 20% of the elderly in Europe, but this could balloon 63% by 2043 - once again highlighting the urgency of aging research and action
Sarcopenia is the age-related degeneration of skeletal muscle which leads to a gradual loss of strength and mobility. This may seem paltry in comparison to heart disease, cancer, dementia, but sarcopenia plays an enormous role in reducing quality of life for millions of people around the globe. This frailty has a knock on effect on many biological processes and can also lead to fatal accidents.
While there is some debate over diagnosing the condition, sarcopenia undeniably places a huge burden upon aging societies. Now a new study from Belgium has revealed that age and gender specific population projections predict sarcopenia rates to hit record levels. Depending on diagnosis criteria, there are currently between 10,869,527 and 19,740,527 people suffering from sarcopenia in Europe right now. Using lower estimates this could reach either 18,735,173 (a 72% rise), or with higher estimates 32,338,990 (a 63.8% rise) by 2045. If higher estimates are reached, this means a massive amount of people could be struggling with everyday activities. This data represents Europe alone, so global rates could be staggering and particularly debilitating in aging but developing economies.
"Regardless of which diagnostic cutoff is used to define sarcopenia, the prevalence of this condition is expected to rise substantially in Europe. It is therefore essential that we implement effective prevention and disease management strategies. Health authorities must take action in order to limit the impact on increasingly strained healthcare systems and to help Europeans enjoy healthy, active ageing"
Hope for the future
There is some hopeful data suggesting that gene therapy could help reduce muscle loss by inhibiting a factor called myostatin which inhibits muscle growth. Transfusions of young blood in mice also appear to regenerate lost muscle in aged mice (see here), and further research could reveal additional drugs that help regenerate muscle tissue.
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