Researchers have identified a molecule that may help older people maintain their youthfulness.
Researchers studied a group of cells, called satellite cells, that line the outside of muscle fibers. These cells rescue damaged muscles and divide to form new muscle tissue. They also generate new cells for future repairs. Previous studies have shown satellite cells respond when a certain protein called Notch is activated by another protein called Delta.
Researchers found that young, middle-aged, and older mice had the same number of satellite cells in their muscles, which contained equal amounts of Notch. They say "It doesn't seem as if there's anything wrong with the satellite cells or Notch in aged muscle but rather they feel that because of this finding, Delta must be the molecule that helps muscles stay young.
Results show young mice did indeed produce more of the Delta molecule than older mice. When researchers applied a Delta-like molecule to injured, older muscles, satellite cells began to divide much like those in younger muscle. Researchers say these older muscles had a regenerative ability similar to that of younger muscle.
Researchers say their findings could help those who experience muscle atrophy such as the elderly, astronauts, and patients who are put on bed rest.