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A Breakthrough in Anti-Aging Treatment

The hormone oxytocin – associated with childbirth, sex and social attachments – is also essential for muscle maintenance and repair, researchers have found. But an animal experiment found that it declines with age.

The new study, published) in the journal Nature Communications, indicates that oxytocin, if it could be administered to humans, could eventually be a treatment for age-related muscle wasting, or sarcopenia.

The discovery is especially significant because oxytocin is already approved by the Food and Drug Admnistration for use in people. Pitocin, a synthetic form of oxytocin, is used to help with labor. Clinical trials are underway to see if an oxytocin nasal spray can alleviate some mental disorders, including autism, schizophrenia and dementia.

“Unfortunately, most of the molecules discovered so far to boost tissue regeneration are also associated with cancer, limiting their potential as treatments for humans,” said study principal investigator Irina Conboy, associate professor of bioengineering. “Our quest is to find a molecule that not only rejuvenates old muscle and other tissue, but that can do so sustainably long-term without increasing the risk of cancer.”

Conboy said they may have reached that goal with the discovery of oxytocin’s anti-aging function. Investigators said oxytocin is especially appealing because it reaches every organ and has no links with tumors or immune-system suppression.

Previous research found that giving oxytocin to mice helped prevent osteoporosis after they had their ovaries removed to mimic menopause.

The new study determined that in mice, blood levels of oxytocin declined with age. They also showed that there are fewer receptors for oxytocin in muscle stem cells in old versus young mice.

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