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Purdue researchers find 'switch' for skeletal-muscle atrophy

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Researchers in Purdue University's School of Veterinary Medicine have discovered genetic and drug-treatment methods to arrest the type of muscle atrophy often caused by muscle disuse, as well as aging and diseases such as cancer.

The findings might eventually benefit people who have been injured or suffer from diseases that cause them to be bedridden and lose muscle mass, or sometimes limbs, due to atrophy, said Amber Pond, a research scientist in the school's Department of Basic Medical Sciences.

"The weight loss and muscle wasting that occurs in patients with cancer or other diseases seriously compromises their well-being and is correlated with a poor chance for recovery," Pond said. "In addition, muscle weakness caused by atrophy during aging can lead to serious falls and bone loss. Exercise is the most beneficial strategy to treat atrophy. However, many individuals are too ill to adequately participate in exercise programs.

"We've found a chemical 'switch' in the body that allows us to turn atrophy on, and, from that, we also have learned how to turn atrophy off."

Findings based on the research, funded in large part by the American Heart Association, are detailed in a study available online today (Wednesday, May 24) in The FASEB Journal, published by the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology. The study will be in the journal's print edition in July.

The research team found atrophy of skeletal muscle in mice could be inhibited with both gene therapy and drug treatment using astemizole (as-TEM-uh-zole), an antihistamine. This new insight has potential in many different areas of research, Pond said.

"We have discovered a direct link between atrophy and a protein in the skeletal muscle," Pond said. "This led us to develop methods that would block the protein's ability to cause atrophy. Through drug treatment, we were able to block atrophy, allowing muscle to retain 97 percent
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Contact: Maggie Morris
maggiemorris@purdue.edu
765-494-2432
Purdue University
24-May-2006


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