Correct mitochondrial function prevents muscle loss during ageing

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Mitochondria are the organelles that work on the energy metabolism of the cell.

Mitochondria are the organelles that work on the energy metabolism of the cell.

Loss of muscle mass and power related to ageing —sarcopenia— is a degenerative process that reduces the quality of life and increases the dependency levels of the elderly. Studies indicate that this muscle atrophy is related to chronic inflammation. When and why does this inflammation take place?

An article published in the journal Aging Cell reveals the inflammatory process that drives muscle atrophy is related to the accumulation of damaged mitochondria in cells. Also, the increase in BNIP3 levels —a protein linked to the clearance of damaged mitochondria— is related to a better muscle ageing.

The study is led by the experts Antonio Zorzano, professor at the Faculty of Biology , head of the Laboratory of Complex Metabolic Diseases and Mitochondria in IRB Barcelona and head of the research group of the Diabetes and Associated Metabolic Diseases Networking Biomedical Research Centre ( CIBERDEM ), and David Sebastián, lecturer at the Faculty of Pharmacy and Food Sciences and member of the IRB Barcelona and CIBERDEM.

The study was conducted with culture cells and mice models, as well as human samples from young and older people. Other collaborators in the study were the teams from the Institute of Biomedicine of the University of Barcelona ( IBUB ), the Health Park Sant Joan de Déu and the Carlos III Health Institute, among others.

Mitochondria —power plants of cells— play an essential role in cellular physiology. "If the BNIP3 levels of the protein are low at advanced ages, more damaged mitochondria accumulate. This triggers inflammatory processes that cause muscle atrophy", says lecturer David Sebastián.

However, "the reason why some people show higher levels of BNIP3 than others is still unknown", adds Andrea Irazoki, first author of the article, lecturer at the Faculty of Biology and member of IRB Barcelona and CIBERDEM.

"In this study, we intend to clarify the mechanisms that lead to the development of sarcopenia and look for tools to promote a healthy ageing regarding the muscles", concludes Professor Antonio Zorzano.

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