Naturally produced hormone, well known for its role in social bonding, could help heal injuries in the elderly
C. Elabd and W. Cousin
The “love hormone” does more than trigger labor and cement emotional ties between people. Oxytocin also helps repair damaged muscles, at least in mice.
Oxytocin stimulates muscle stem cells to divide when muscle is damaged, researchers report June 10 in Nature Communications. Experiments with mice also showed that the hormone’s levels in the animals’ blood declines with age. Giving old mice shots of oxytocin restored their muscle-regeneration capabilities to match those of much younger rodents. But extra doses of the hormone did not boost muscle-building in young mice.
“This is not a performance-enhancing drug,” says study coauthor Irina Conboy, a stem cell scientist at the University of California, Berkeley.
The findings raise the possibility that oxytocin may stave off muscle atrophy in aging people.