A key protein preserves motor ability during aging

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2024-05-30 05:30:07

Machine vision measures the diminishing climbing ability of aging adult Drosophila (green - young, blue – middle-aged, red – old). Credit: Marine Van Campenhoudt and Brian D. McCabe (EPFL)

A new study by EPFL scientists shows that age-related decline in motor ability can be countered in fruit flies by enhancing the expression of the protein Trio, suggesting potential treatments for age-related movement decline.

As we age, we suffer a noticeable decline in motor ability, which affects our quality of life and independence. This can be traced to changes occurring at neuromuscular junctions, the critical points where nerve cells communicate with muscles.

The deterioration of motor ability is closely linked to the degeneration of motor synaptic terminals, where signals pass from nerves in the spine to muscles. As we age, the terminals undergo structural fragmentation, reducing the release of neurotransmitters, which is crucial for initiating muscle movements. In the end, this translates into decreased motor ability especially for strenuous movements .

Now, a study led by the group of Brian McCabe at EPFL has discovered a possible way to prevent this. The study found that the protein Trio, which regulates the structure of synapses, diminishes in aging fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster), causing a decline in motor ability. However, increasing Trio preserves the integrity of motor synapses and delays the deterioration of motor strength. The study, published in Cell Reports, offers a promising avenue for future therapeutic strategies.

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