Drs. Alfredo Franco-Obregón and Brian H. Kennedy from the National University of Singapore detail a research paper they co-authored that was published by Aging (Aging-US) in Volume 15, Issue 6, entitled, “Brief, weekly magnetic muscle therapy improves mobility and lean body mass in older adults: a Southeast Asia community case study.”
Behind the Study is a series of transcribed videos from researchers elaborating on their recent studies published by Aging (Aging-US). Visit the Aging (Aging-US) YouTube channel for more insights from outstanding authors.
My name is Alfredo Franco-Obregón. I’m from the Institute of Health Innovation and Technology, iHealthtech of the National University of Singapore. I’m also in the Department of Surgery of the School of Medicine of the National University of Singapore. I am the inventor of the BICEPS technology used here at the Center for Innovation and Healthcare at Alexandra Hospital.
Hi, I’m Brian Kennedy. I’m director of the Center for Healthy Longevity at National University of Singapore and a professor in biochemistry and physiology. I’ve been working in the field of aging and longevity research for over two decades.
In this manuscript, we describe the data from a community trial looking at a previously published magnetic stimulation program that we call magnetic mitohormesis that activates muscle. In this study, what we found is that anywhere from eight to 12 weeks of exposure produces improvements in functional mobility, improvements in body composition, as well as reduces overall pain indices.
What’s notable about this therapy is that it’s only 10 minutes a week for a few months, and we’re getting noticeable results. We found that there was improvements in functional capacity following 12 weeks of weekly exposure, the stand-up and go test, the four-meter walk test, and these sorts of things were shown to improve.
It’s a really exciting result that muscle mass can be maintained and many other features associated with aging are improved as well.
We found that there were improvements in body composition after eight weeks of therapy. What I mean by that is that lean muscle mass increased, total body fat was reduced, as well as visceral fat was reduced. This all happened after eight weeks of exposure. This is actually very critical because visceral fat is the most insidious fat that’s associated with metabolic disruption in the elderly, the frail and obese. This is actually a very important finding, particularly here in Southeast Asia where we tend to hold onto visceral fat a little bit more than other populations. We also noticed there was actually improvements in pain, which is probably an indication that systemic inflammation was being attenuated by our therapy.
I think we have a major crisis right now because the population is getting older at a very rapid rate, and this leads to a number of conditions that are associated with aging. One that’s often not considered is the rate at which older people lose muscle mass and that makes them become frail. It makes them more prone to falling and it also reduces their life quality. They can’t get around as well and do the things they want to do. We need to put all efforts we can into trying to maintain muscle mass in the older people so that they can still enjoy a high quality of life.
My entire scientific career has been dedicated to one inevitable scientific paradox, and that paradox extends from the fact that exercise is healing. The problem is that in certain cohorts and populations, exercise is inappropriate. Some people cannot exercise. Others are restricted from exercise, and what this has is the inevitable consequence that it slows down healing.
What’s actually notable about our BICEPS technology, the magnetic mitohormesis technology, is that after as little as 10 minutes of exposure per week, over a few months, we get some of the metabolic improvements that have often traditionally been associated with exercise. This means that we can actually, in the sedentary population for whatever reason, we can actually help maintain the metabolism. We can actually slow down muscle loss and these will help the overall capacity to recover from any kind of insult.
I think the magnetic muscle therapy is really exciting because it’s easy to think of strategies that cost a million dollars to make people better, but the benefit here is that this is scalable and it’s non-invasive. It’s not even giving people pills. It’s having them come in, do a therapy for a very short time, and you get a persistent effect, so it’s a really exciting result.
For myself, I think the most pivotal finding is the reduction in visceral fat following only eight weeks of exposure. Total exposure was only about 80 minutes in total, so it’s actually quite surprising. It’s surprising in that it worked that well in humans, but it’s not surprising based on the preclinical work we’ve done.
Muscle has a very strong communication with adipose tissue, and in response to this muscle adipose crosstalk, when you activate muscle, adipose changes and that is manifested at the level of systemic metabolism. In fact, I would easily say based on our animal and preclinical studies, that one of the strongest effects that should have been and was observed was actually changes in adipose tissue.
We’re all awaiting more placebo controlled studies, but this study’s very promising and I’m excited to see where it goes, and largely because of the scalability. You can imagine one of these machines in community centers all over Singapore, and if they provide benefit to the older people in the population, then that could have a big effect on sarcopenia and muscle loss in the population.
As Brian alluded to, the next stage, the most important stage is to actually run large scale multi-center controlled clinical trials where this is actually validated outside of Singapore in other hospitals at a large scale to actually really nail this phenomenon down. We are now commencing the process of organizing these trials and we hope to have definitive data within the next few years.
I’d like to acknowledge iHealthtech and the Department of Surgery of the National University of Singapore School of Medicine. Their funding and support made these studies possible. I’d like to acknowledge our partners in the Healthy Longevity Translational Research program. They gave the study a context that has meaning to the senior population. I’d like to acknowledge my laboratory. Without them, this work would never have taken off.
I think we need to continue to devote effort both to preclinical and clinical research in the health span and longevity space. It’s so important that we find ways to keep people functioning as if they’re younger and keep them disease free, and we can do that, but we still need to put the research into it. This magnetic muscle therapy approach is one strategy that’s come out of research like that, and if we keep putting the time and effort and resources in, we’ll find better and better ways to keep people healthy longer and longer.
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