Scientists have come up with new ways to stop by-products from the air we breathe from harming our muscles.
Atanu Duttaroy, associate professor of biology at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and colleagues have shown how about 3 percent of the air we breathe gets converted into harmful superoxides, which ultimately harm our muscles.
They say that these superoxides lead to the creation of a toxic molecule called "reactive oxygen species" (ROS), which is shown to be particularly harmful to muscle tissue, and may lead to problems ranging from aging and frailty to Parkinson's disease and cancer.
"At a minimum, we hope this research leads to new ways of addressing inevitable declining physical performance and other age-dependent infirmities among the elderly," said Duttaroy.
For the study, the researchers built on their previous research showing that ROS-induced cellular damage happens in the same way in fruit flies and in mice.
They started their work with fruit flies that lack mitochondrial superoxide dismutase enzyme (SOD), which provides the primary line of defence against ROS by capturing the superoxides and converting them to water.
This lack of SOD caused the fruit flies to die within a day after hatching.
Then they used genetic manipulation to "turn on" the production of SOD separately in nerves and muscles.
SOD in nerves did not appear to make a significant difference in prolonging the fruit flies' lives, but it did make a difference when it was activated in their muscles.
The researchers observed that the survival of fruit flies with SOD "turned on" in their muscles increased, and for several days, they remained as active as their normal counterparts.
Measurement of their muscle activity also showed that SOD helped the muscle work normally, helping survival.
The study has been published in the journal Genetics.