Muscles May Preserve A Shortcut To Restore Lost Strength

Muscle cells may retain nuclei that helped them grow strong, even after muscles shrink from lack of use. This provocative contentious idea could have implications for public health and sports.
Skeletal muscle cells from a rabbit were stained with fluorescent markers to highlight cell nuclei (blue) and proteins in the cytoskeleton (red and green). Source: Daniel Schroen, Cell Applications Inc.

Can muscles remember their younger, fitter selves?

Muscle physiology lore has long held that it's easier to regain muscle mass in once-fit muscles than build it anew, especially as we age. But scientists haven't been able to pin down how that would actually work.

A growing body of research reviewed Friday in the journal Frontiers in Physiology suggests that muscle nuclei — the factories that power new muscle growth — may be the answer. Rather than dying as muscles lose mass, new research suggests that nuclei added during muscle growth persist and could give older muscles an edge in regaining fitness later on.

This work could affect public health policy and anti-doping efforts in sports, says , a biologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst who wrote the review.

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