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Third Report - COPD and muscle aging

People with COPD often suffer from muscle wastage, when their skeletal muscles are reduced in mass and do not function properly. This is a particular issue in the arm and leg muscles and can lead to a negative effect on health-related quality of life and the ability to access healthcare.

Researchers in laboratories or scientists   can gain an insight into a person’s disease and expected lifespan by analysing how the muscles are functioning. This measurement can be used in addition to the measurements taken during a spirometry test, to understand how a disease is progressing.

We believe that premature ageing may contribute to muscle dysfunction in people with COPD, however, we are not yet sure how these two symptoms interact. 

Muscle dysfunction has two related phenomena: a) malfunction of the muscle, b) loss of muscle mass. The underlying causes of muscle dysfunction are not yet fully understood, but we believe that premature ageing may be the cause of muscle dysfunction in people with COPD.

After analysing skeletal muscle, we have been able to measure several signs of ageing. We took samples from three different groups:

We found a number of differences between these three groups. In the people with COPD and low FFMI, we found that there were larger amounts of the proteins that reduce growth, compared to the group with normal FFMI and the group without COPD.   This could mean that cells are not able to multiply normally in these groups of people.

In a second experiment by our team, we looked at DNA from human muscles cells, which are used in the development and repair of muscle. We found signs of premature ageing in those muscle cells, which further suggests this could be an important mechanism in muscle dysfunction in people with COPD.