Sarcopenia may one day become the new osteoporosis for drug makers. The regulatory pathway may be hazy, but drug developers like GlaxoSmithKline are zeroing in on sarcopenia--the loss of muscle mass and strength--as a likely source of future blockbusters. Up to now, explains New York Times writer Andrew Pollack, drug developers have been primarily concerned with muscle mass. But their R&D focus is shifting to muscle strength and function, with new tests being devised to gauge how a patient responds to therapies.
As people age, they typically lose a significant amount of strength. So researchers are focusing more on what can be done to maintain a person's strength, much like a bear which can come out of hibernation in top condition. Paving the way to new therapies that can have the same effect on humans would make it possible to undergo lengthy hospitalizations without losing mobility--a factor that would significantly reduce the need for expensive physical rehabilitation.
"Maintaining the muscle is possible," Dr. Luigi Ferrucci of the National Institute on Aging tells the Times. "We just don't know the right formula yet." Ferrucci has been involved in a prominent research project focused on tracking muscle loss while GlaxoSmithKline hired William Evans last year to help manage its muscle research operations.
GTx and Ligand, meanwhile, are developing new Sarms, therapies that can have the same effect as testosterone without the side effects. And Pfizer, Amgen and Acceleron are developing drugs that block a protein which blunts muscle formation.