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Insulin boost restores muscle growth in elderly
Date:9/25/2009

GALVESTON, Texas When most people think of insulin, they think of diabetes a disease that arises when, for one reason or another, insulin can't do the critical job of helping the body process sugar. But the hormone has another, less well-known function. It's also necessary for muscle growth, increasing blood flow through muscle tissue, encouraging nutrients to disperse from blood vessels and itself serving as a biochemical signal to boost muscle protein synthesis and cell proliferation.

Recently, scientists have recognized that loss of responsiveness to insulin plays a major role in the loss of physical strength that occurs as people grow older. Now, University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston researchers have demonstrated that by increasing insulin levels above the normal range in elderly test subjects, they can restore the impaired muscle-building process responsible for age-related physical weakness.

"Insulin is normally secreted during food intake," said Dr. Elena Volpi, senior author of a paper on the study published in the September issue of Diabetologia. "When you give insulin intravenously and increase the blood insulin levels to the same amount produced after a meal, you see that in young people it stimulates protein synthesis and muscle growth, while in older people it really doesn't. But when we gave seniors double the insulin they would normally produce after eating, their muscles were stimulated like those of young people."

Volpi and her co-authors postdoctoral fellows Satoshi Fujita and Kyle Timmerman, graduate student Erin Glynn and Professor Blake B. Rasmussen worked with 14 elderly volunteers to examine the response of thigh muscle to the two different blood insulin levels, established by infusion into the thigh's main artery. Blood samples taken from catheters inserted in the femoral artery and vein of each subject enabled the researchers to calculate blood flow and muscle protein synthesis, and mu
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Contact: Jim Kelly
jpkelly@utmb.edu
409-772-8791
University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
Source:Eurekalert

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