CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- As we age, it's natural for our bodies to weaken and become frail, but the natural progression can limit physical activities in the elderly. A new drug is being touted as an anti-frailty pill.
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Jack Gwaltney keeps active training his dog Ajax, but admits aging has taken a toll on his body.
"I am fortunate that I do almost everything that I could do, but I don't do it as well," Gwaltney told Ivanhoe.
As we get older, we lose muscle mass, mainly in the arms and legs. Endocrinologists say it can limit activities for seniors and cause frailty.
"By the time you've reached the age of 70, the average loss of muscle is about 6 kilograms, which is over 12 pounds," Michael Thorner, M.D., an endocrinologist at the University of Virginia Health System in Charlottesville, Va., told Ivanhoe.
A new drug called MK-677 has been shown to increase 20 percent of the lost muscle mass that occurs between mid-puberty and age 70 -- a significant boost in muscle.
"There were changes in body composition that far exceeded what I had expected," Dr. Thorner said.
The drug works by mimicking and stimulating the body's natural growth hormone, restoring hormone levels to those found in healthy 20- to 30-year-olds. The hormones help fuel muscle growth, which may help improve activity levels.
"I think that it may be able to enable people to remain independent for longer," Dr. Thorner said.
That's something Gwaltney hopes for himself lasts a long time.
"I'd like to be able to take care of the yard and drive the car, and very important, I want to continue training my dogs," Gwaltney said.
Gwaltney took the drug and felt its effects.
"What I felt like was I did have an improvement in my strength as far as getting out of a chair, walking and so forth," Gwaltney added.
The drug research was a proof-of-concept study that sets the stage for a larger and longer clinical trial to assess its long-term safety. Researchers are hopeful the drug will go on to larger clinical trials for FDA approval. No serious side effects from the drug were reported, but longer-term studies need to be completed.