Marshall University researchers in the US say that age-associated muscle loss and other conditions may be prevented with the use of the common pain reliever acetaminophen.
Lead researcher Dr. Eric Blough and his colleagues came to this conclusion after studying how acetaminophen may affect the regulation of protein kinase B (Akt), an enzyme known to play an important role in regulation of cellular survival, proliferation and metabolism.
Upon analysis of their data, the researchers observed that aging skeletal muscles experience a decrease in the proper functioning of the enzyme, and that acetaminophen intervention in aged animals could be used to restore Akt activity to a level comparable to that seen in young animals.
This improvement in Akt activity, according to the researchers, was linked with improvements in muscle cell size and decreased muscle cell death.
"Using a model that closely mimics many of the age-associated physiological changes observed in humans, we were able to demonstrate that chronic acetaminophen treatment in a recommended dosage is not only safe but might be beneficial for the treatment of the muscle dysfunction many people experience as they get older," said Blough, an associate professor in the university's Department of Biological Sciences.
Writing about their lab's work in a recent issue of the journal PLoS One, the researchers claimed that theirs was the first study to show that acetaminophen ingestion could be safely used for the treatment of age-related muscle loss.
Additional research in their laboratory, reported in a recent issue of the journal Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Reviews, shows the medication may also be useful in diminishing the severity of age-associated hyperglycemia, commonly referred to as high blood sugar.
"It is thought that acetaminophen may exert its action by decreasing the amount of reactive oxygen species. Given the finding that increases in reactive oxygen species may play a role in the development of several age-associated disorders, it is possible that acetaminophen could be used to treat many different types of conditions," said Dr. Miaozong Wu, the lead author and a postdoctoral fellow in Blough's lab.
Dr. John Maher, vice president for research and executive director of the Marshall University Research Corporation, said: "These findings are yet another indication that Marshall's researchers are conducting vital research in areas of great importance to human health and safety. I could not be more pleased and wish Dr. Blough and his team continued success."
The research was supported with funding from McNeil Pharmaceutical.
Blough has revealed that scientists in his lab will now turn their attention to examining other physiological systems, such as the heart and blood vessels, to see if acetaminophen therapy might have similar benefits for people with cardiovascular disease.