The hormone oxytocin-often referred to as the ‘love hormone’-can counteract the age-associated decline in muscle function, a study published this week in Nature Communications reports. If confirmed in humans, the work could lead to new therapies to prevent or reverse skeletal muscle ageing.
With increasing age, the capacity of skeletal muscle tissue to regenerate after injury declines, and muscle tissue is gradually lost. This loss has been attributed, at least in part, to the inhibition of muscle stem cells in old tissue.
Wendy Cousin and colleagues report that blood levels of oxytocin-a hormone so far mainly known for its role in childbirth, lactation, and social behaviour-decline with age in male mice. They go on to show that administration of oxytocin can restore the regenerative potential of skeletal muscle in aged mice. This effect seems to be mediated by a direct action of oxytocin on muscle stem cells. The researchers also show that the ageing-associated decline in muscle regeneration progresses more rapidly in male mice that cannot produce oxytocin.
If confirmed in humans, the fact that oxytocin is already approved for clinical use could speed up the clinical translation of these findings.