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Muscle disuse; the culprit of sarcopenia? A study in master athletes

Evans, Michael Ewart (2015) Muscle disuse; the culprit of sarcopenia? A study in master athletes. Masters by Research thesis (MSc), Manchester Metropolitan University.


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Sarcopenia is described as the result of a slow but progressive age-related loss of skeletal muscle mass which is reflected by a reduction in the force and power generating capacity of the remaining muscle tissue. Ultimately the changes result in a transition from an independent to dependant lifestyle and presents a growing issue particularly in more economically advanced countries where an ageing population and changing demographic is apparent. An age-related decline in physical activity levels means that muscle disuse is more prevalent with advancing age and therefore the sarcopenic phenotype is more apparent. By studying a unique population who maintain very high physical activity levels exhibiting exceptional athletic ability even in very old age, the aging process can be studied without the confounding factor of disuse seen in sedentary individuals. Through histochemical cross-sectional analysis of muscle biopsies collected from these individuals ten years apart, differences can be seen in how muscle tissue changes with advancing age compared to how muscle tissue of sedentary individuals changes. Muscle fibre morphology and capillary supply of the muscle tissue was found to be better maintained than is normally seen in sedentary individuals of comparable age with no significant changes seen over the ten year period where normally declines would be expected to be observed.

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