Prof. Dafna Benayahu and her team at Tel Aviv University's Sackler School of Medicine say their findings explain for the first time why older people who have exercised throughout their lives age more gracefully. They have discovered how endurance exercise increases the number of muscle stem cells and enhances their ability to rejuvenate old muscles. The researchers hope their finding can lead to a new drug to help the elderly and immobilized heal their muscles faster.
Comparing the performance of rats of different ages and sexes, they found that the number of satellite cells increased after rats ran on a treadmill for 20 minutes a day for a 13-week period. The younger rats showed a 20% to 35% increase in the average number of stem cells per muscle fiber retained — and older rats benefited even more significantly, exhibiting a 33% to 47% increase in stem cells.
f researchers can discover a method to "boost" satellite cells in our muscles, that could simulate the performance of young and healthy muscles — and hold our aging bones in place.
"We hope to understand the mechanisms for the activation codes of muscle stem cells at the molecular level," says Prof. Benayahu. "With this advance, we can let ourselves dream about creating a new drug for humans — one that could increase muscle mass and ameliorate the negative effects of aging."
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