Oxytocin stimulates repair of old mice’s muscles

Naturally produced hormone, well known for its role in social bonding, could help heal injuries in the elderly

11:00am, June 10, 2014

LOVE YOUR MUSCLES  Old mice have trouble repairing their muscles after an injury (center, black shows missing muscle cells). The “love hormone” oxytocin helps old mice (right) regenerate muscle tissue as well as young mice (left) do. Muscle proteins are stained in red, DNA in blue.

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.

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