Targeting myostatin and related biochemistry is well demonstrated to increase muscle mass and strength in mammals such as laboratory mice. There are even rare natural mutants, including a few cows and humans, who lack normal myostatin and are as a result exceptionally strong in comparison to their peers. Here researchers show that loss of myostatin mutations in mice produce extended life spans, but too much suppression of myostatin may remove that benefit due to the cardiac issues that can accompany an overly large heart:
The molecular mechanisms behind aging-related declines in muscle function are not well understood, but the growth factor myostatin (MSTN) appears to play an important role in this process. Additionally, epidemiological studies have identified a positive correlation between skeletal muscle mass and longevity. Given the role of myostatin in regulating muscle size, and the correlation between muscle mass and longevity, we tested the hypotheses that the deficiency of myostatin would protect oldest-old mice (28-30 months old) from an aging-related loss in muscle size and contractility, and would extend the maximum lifespan of mice. We found that MSTN+/− and MSTN−/− mice were protected from aging-related declines in muscle mass and contractility. While no differences were detected between MSTN+/+ and MSTN−/− mice, MSTN+/− mice had an approximately 15% increase in maximal lifespan. These results suggest that targeting myostatin may protect against aging-related changes in skeletal muscle and contribute to enhanced longevity.
The mechanism behind the increased longevity of MSTN+/− mice is not known, but inhibition of myostatin can reduce systemic inflammatory proteins and body fat. Given the increase in relative heart mass, the contribution of aging-associated cardiomegaly to mortality and that inhibition of myostatin can increase heart mass, it is possible that positive effects of increased skeletal muscle mass on the longevity of MSTN−/− mice was offset by cardiac pathologies. Most genetic models of enhanced longevity in mice have identified an inverse relationship between body mass and longevity, which has lead to the observation that 'big mice die young'. However, the results from the current study support the epidemiological observations in humans that when it comes to skeletal muscle mass and longevity, bigger may be better.