Electrical stimulation counteracts muscle decline in seniors.

Authors: Helmut Kern(2,3), Laura Barberi(1), Stefan Loefler(3), Simona Sbardella(1), Samantha Burgraf(3), Hannah Fruhmann(3), Ugo Carraro(4), Simone Mosole(4), Nejc Sarabon(5), Michael Vogelauer(2), Winfried Mayr(6), Matthias Krenn(6), Jan Cvecka(7), Vanina Romanello(8), Laura Pietrangelo(9), Feliciano Protasi(9), Marco Sandri(8), Sandra Zampieri(4) and Antonio Musarò(1)*

Source: Front Aging Neurosci. 2014 Jul 24;6:189. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2014.00189. eCollection 2014.

Keywords: Electrical Stimulation, Aging, muscle performance, muscle atrophy, IGF-1, Extracellular Matrix, satellite cells, microRNA

Schlüsselwörter: Senioren, Alter, Elektrostimulation, FES, NMES, Muskelschwäche, Atrophie


The loss in muscle mass coupled with a decrease in specific force and shift in fiber composition are hallmarks of aging. Training and regular exercise attenuate the signs of sarcopenia. However, pathologic conditions limit the ability to perform physical exercise. We addressed whether electrical stimulation (ES) is an alternative intervention to improve muscle recovery and defined the molecular mechanism associated with improvement in muscle structure and function. We analyzed, at functional, structural, and molecular level, the effects of ES training on healthy seniors with normal life style, without routine sport activity. ES was able to improve muscle torque and functional performances of seniors and increased the size of fast muscle fibers. At molecular level, ES induced up-regulation of IGF-1 and modulation of MuRF-1, a muscle-specific atrophy-related gene. ES also induced up-regulation of relevant markers of differentiating satellite cells and of extracellular matrix remodeling, which might guarantee shape and mechanical forces of trained skeletal muscle as well as maintenance of satellite cell function, reducing fibrosis. Our data provide evidence that ES is a safe method to counteract muscle decline associated with aging.


1 Sapienza University of Rome, Italy
2 Institute of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Wilhelminenspital, Austria
3 Ludwig Boltzmann Institute of Electrical Stimulation and Physical Rehabilitation, Austria
4 University of Padova, Italy
5 University of Primorska, Slovenia
6 Medical University of Vienna, Austria
7 Comenius University, Slovakia
8 Dulbecco Telethon Institute at Venetian Institute of Molecular Medicine,, Italy
9 University Gabriele d’Annunzio, Chieti, Italy