OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Researchers in Oklahoma say they are planning to study how aging affects the body’s muscular system.

The National Institutes of Health awarded the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation $3.4 million to study age-related muscle atrophy and weakness.

OMRF scientists say they learned that some age-related muscle loss is actually connected to a missing nerve signal.

Most people begin to experience progressive loss of muscle mass and strength in their 30s or 40s. However, the condition becomes more pronounced after 65, making daily tasks difficult for some people.

“It’s just a natural process of aging, and some people lose more muscle mass and strength than others,” said Jacob Brown, Ph.D.

While inactivity is the most common contributor to muscle loss, the team found that denervation is another cause.

Denervation is an interruption in communication with the nerves that connect muscles to the spinal cord.

With the new grant, the researchers will study whether blocking the production of the metabolite protects against age-related muscle atrophy.

“This is a novel area of research that we hope will lead to new possibilities to design much-needed pharmaceutical interventions,” said Holly Van Remmen, who holds the G.T. Blankenship Chair in Aging Research. “Ultimately, we hope this path of research will extend the time that older adults can remain healthy and active.”

Researchers say older adults can ward off muscle loss by staying physically active and maintaining a healthy diet.