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University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

University Of Pittsburgh Receives $2.4 Million From NIH For Study On The Genetics Of Muscle And Bone Aging

PITTSBURGH, January 16, 2003 Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH) have received a grant of $2.4 million from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for a five-year study of how genes are involved in the aging of the human musculoskeletal system. The study is part of the ongoing national Health, Aging and Body Composition (Health ABC) study, also funded by the NIH.

Begun in 1997, Health ABC is an eight-year multi-center study of the impact of age-related declines in muscle mass, muscle strength, bone mass and bone weight on the health and activities of daily living in older people. In it, investigators are studying how sarcopenia, the progressive loss of muscle mass, and loss of bone mass contribute to disease and reduced independence among older European-Americans and African-Americans.

In the newly funded genetics component of Health ABC, researchers will examine how variation in 50 different genes contribute to differences in bone mineral density, bone quality, muscle mass, muscle strength and muscle quality and their decline with age.

This genetics study will contribute to our knowledge of the mechanisms of age-related loss of lean body mass, said principal investigator Robert E. Ferrell, Ph.D., chair, department of human genetics, GSPH. It will add to our understanding of the basic biology of aging and identify genetic targets for behavioral or pharmacological interventions to prevent age-related changes. We may, as a result, see many older people avoiding age-related bone and muscle loss, and the disabling conditions that often follow.

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