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Approved Research

Genetic and environmental epidemiology of sarcopenia in relation to early life myogenesis

Principal Investigator: Professor Simon Hughes
Approved Research ID: 67736
Approval date: January 29th 2021

Lay summary

Muscle weakening, known as sarcopenia, occurs in all of us as we age, often reducing quality of life.  Sarcopenia is a major contributor to frailty and falls in the elderly, which often lead to physical dependency with associated reduced quality of life for individuals, families and societal costs estimated at  !16 billion p.a in the EU.  Some people undergo more sarcopenia than others; the reasons are unknown, but likely depend on both our genetic make-up and lifestyle factors.  It is probable that some genetic differences and lifestyle choices act during adult life to control the extent of sarcopenia.  A less-investigated, but nevertheless important, factor may also be the genes and lifestyle/environmental events that control the initial generation of muscle before birth, during childhood and in adolescence.

The proposed project constitutes an initial exploratory study (for three years) to investigate how lifestyle factors such as exercise and nutrition interact with genetic make-up of the individual to control the quantity and quality of muscle generated in the individual and how these factors correlate with, predict and cause sarcopenia.

The project aims to:

1. Generate a new data-field termed 'sarcopenia', identifying height- and age-adjusted muscle wasting within the participant cohort.

2. Identify genetic factors correlating with differences in sarcopenia between individuals.

3. Identify environmental factors correlating with sarcopenia, for example exercise and nutrition.

4. Determine whether the factors identified in 3 above precede or follow sarcopenia

5. Attempt to determine the causality of these factors and genetic variants using a procedure called Mendelian randomisation

6. Determine when these factors act during the lifecourse.

7. Determine what lifestyle interventions could mitigate sarcopenia, and in which people.

Our long-term aim is thus to provide data underpinning prophylactic healthcare advice in a mid-21st century world of personalised medicine.