OKLAHOMA CITY — Two Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation scientists have received Merit Review Awards totaling $1.3 million from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Holly Van Remmen, Ph.D., and Tim Griffin, Ph.D., from OMRF’s Aging and Metabolism Research Program focus on a pair of diseases prevalent in aging veterans: age-related muscle loss and osteoarthritis, respectively.

Van Remmen, who chairs OMRF’s aging program, received $650,000 to continue an investigation into a potential therapy for age-related muscle loss called sarcopenia. No drug options exist to treat the condition, which causes muscle weakness and atrophy.

“Sarcopenia is a highly relevant problem for the veteran population, as more than half of all veterans are over age 60,” said Van Remmen. “The weakness associated with it contributes to falls and fractures, deconditioning, institutionalization, and contributes to obesity and diabetes. All of these could significantly improve with a treatment.”

In the lab, Van Remmen showed that a new therapy was successful in elderly mice.

They studied mice until they were 26-28 months old — approximately equivalent to 70-plus human years. They observed those who did not receive the treatment had normal atrophy and weakness, but those who did receive it maintained considerably more muscle mass and muscle function.

“Now that we know the drug works, we need to develop a more efficient version. Once we have refined it, we can then start moving toward human trials,” said Van Remmen, who holds the G.T. Blankenship Chair in Aging Research at OMRF. “This is very promising and could make a real impact in improving quality of life for veterans.”

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