The risk for respiratory complications and infections is substantially increased in old age, which may be due, in part, to sarcopenia (aging-related weakness and atrophy) of the diaphragm muscle (DIAm), reducing its force generating capacity and impairing the ability to perform expulsive non-ventilatory motor behaviors critical for airway clearance. The aging-related reduction in DIAm force generating capacity is due to selective atrophy of higher force generating type IIx and/or IIb muscle fibers, whereas lower force generating type I and IIa muscle fiber sizes are preserved. Fiber type specific DIAm atrophy is also seen following unilateral phrenic nerve denervation and in other neurodegenerative disorders. Accordingly, the effect of aging on DIAm function resembles that of neurodegeneration and suggests possible common mechanisms, such as the involvement of several neurotrophic factors in mediating DIAm sarcopenia. This review will focus on changes in two neurotrophic signaling pathways that represent potential mechanisms underlying the aging-related fiber type specific DIAm atrophy.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Supported by National Institutes of Health grants R01-AG044615 (C.B.M. & G.C.S.) and T32-HL105355 (J.E.E. & S.M.G.).
- Brain derived neurotrophic factor
- Diaphragm muscle