New Treatments for Frailty Could be a Reality in Five Years

Currently, medical research supports the idea that exercise and good nutrition are the best treatments for frailty and sarcopenia in older adults. But, as more and more researchers look at the biological causes of these medical conditions, there may be other, biomolecular treatments on the horizon.

Dr. Jeremy Walston, Professor of Geriatrics Medicine for John Hopkins University, discussed biogenetics in frailty syndrome at the International Conference on Frailty and Sarcopenia held in Miami in February. “Frailty is thought to have many ideologies. Many different pathways become dysregulated as people age,” he explained to StrongPath. In other words, when we’re older, our bodies don’t work they way used to when we were younger.

“When individuals are frightened or threatened there are a number of internal body systems—including stress response—that get turned on, so inflammation, for example, or the flight or fight response. We found that in frail, older adults those systems get turned on and don’t get turned off like they should when the stress results,” according to Dr. Walston.

“Long-term, there’s a number of biomarkers that come out of those stress response systems. Those tend to impact skeletal muscle negatively, impact the immune system, impact brain tissue and all in a negative fashion,” he said. Medical scientists are now at work on solutions targeting mitochondrial biology, or the little energy generators of cells.

He explained that over the last 50 years there’s been a significant amount of progress in treating specific diseases and disorders, including heart attacks, cancers, and strokes, because there has been lots of research dollars targeting them. There has been less money spent over the years on aging-related syndromes because they kill people quickly. “I think now the resources are beginning to flow into this area as people understand that the aging process itself drives a lot of diseases,” explained Dr. Walston.

“Once we know exactly what we’re measuring and what’s impaired, I think we’ll be able to target them better in treatment pathways. There are some new diagnostic strategies related to loss of skeletal muscle, and I think that those will come into the mainstream in the next five years.”

Watch Dr. Walston’s complete interview here.

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