The National Institute of Aging has awarded a five-year, $2.9 million multi-principal investigator grant to scientists at The Ohio State University, Ohio University and Wright State University to investigate and better understand mechanisms of age-related changes in motor neurons and how they affect the loss of muscle function.
“The motor neuron is a specialized cell in the spinal cord that is the final link between the nervous system and muscle for motor control. During aging, based on our work and work of others, we hypothesize that aging results in reduced numbers and function of motor neurons, and that these losses are a major driver of loss of muscle function,” said Dr. W. David Arnold, a physician scientist with specialty training in physical medicine and rehabilitation and neuromuscular medicine at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center and College of Medicine.
“This research is important because loss of muscle function is a major contributor to loss of physical function and mobility, and risk of falls in older adults. Loss of muscle function is also an independent risk factor for all-cause mortality. Furthermore, there is no known mechanism of replacing motor neurons once they are lost,” Arnold said.
The aims of this grant include translational research approaches that will involve longitudinal studies across the lifespan of aging mice (led by Arnold at Ohio State), human studies (led by Brian C. Clark at Ohio University), and intracellular and cellular mouse studies (led by Sherif Elbasiouny of Wright State University). This study builds on the team’s prior research to investigate and understand mechanisms of motor neuron failure and degeneration during aging as a primary cause of muscle weakness in aging.
“This planned study leverages a unique combination of expertise across three collaborative institutions to understand why older adults experience loss of muscle function. These results could lead to interventions to improve physical function and mobility in weak, older adults with loss of independence or at risk of loss of independence,” said Arnold, who is also a researcher in Ohio State’s Neurological Institute.