Link between gut microbes and muscle growth suggests future approach to tackle muscle loss - Wed 11 Sep 01:30 GMT

The microorganisms living in the intestines could help with muscle growth and function, opening new doors to interventions for age-related skeletal muscle loss, an international research team led by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) …

  Professor Sven Pettersson from NTU's Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine led a team of international researchers to establish a link between gut microbes and muscle strength and function.

  Through a series of strength and movement-related exercises conducted on mice, the team comprising researchers from Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, France, UK, US, and Australia, found that mice with gut microbes had stronger skeletal muscles that can produce more energy when compared to mice without any gut microbes, known as germ-free mice.

  Evidence for a link between gut microbes and skeletal muscle mass was strengthened when the international research team transplanted gut microbes from standard laboratory mice into germ-free mice.

  Professor Sven Pettersson from the NTU Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, who led the study, said, "These results further strengthen the growing evidence of gut microbes acting as crucial gatekeepers to human health, and provide new insight into muscle mass maintenance with respect to ageing.

  Credit: NTU Singapore Understanding the mechanism of skeletal muscles To study the impact of gut microbes on skeletal muscle mass and muscle atrophy, which is the wasting or loss of muscle tissue, Prof Pettersson and his team conducted three sets of exercise tests on both mice with gut microbes and germ-free mice with no trace of microbes in them.

  Upon examination, the research team found that on top of reduced skeletal muscle mass and increased expression of genes linked to muscle atrophy, the skeletal muscles in germ-free mice also displayed problems with function and the generation of new mitochondria, whose role is to break down nutrients to form energy for cellular activity.

  One area with enormous potential is to delay or reverse age-related sarcopenia—the loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength as a result of ageing," added the research director at A*STAR's Institute of Molecular and Cell Biology Lahiri et al, The gut microbiota influences skeletal muscle mass and function in mice, Science Translational Medicine (2019).