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Wasting Away

Genes involved in muscle atrophy identified in fruit fly model

16 March 2022

Wasting Away

Skeletal muscles connect to your bones. They allow you to perform a wide range of different movements and functions, and also make up a significant portion of your body mass. But as we get older, our muscles get weaker, but we don’t really know why that happens. There are also a range of other conditions that lead to muscle wastage like cancer or diabetes. Crucially, muscle weakening isn’t just a symptom of these conditions, it contributes to mortality. In fact, preventing the loss of skeletal muscle mass increased survival in mice with cancer. The key question is how can we prevent wastage? Researchers studied the gene Deaf1 in fruit flies and found that too much Deaf1 activity caused a decrease in muscle size (right; compare areas outlined in white). By understanding how the size of muscle fibres is regulated we can find ways to age more healthily.

Written by Sophie Arthur

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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