Neuroscience affiliated faculty Gregorio Valdez, an assistant professor at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute,  and his biomedical scientists team, has found that the motor neurons responsible for controlling muscle movement do not age. Rather, it’s the synaptic inputs connected to the motor neurons that age and cause bodily decay.

The study was published in Aging Cell.

Valdez and his team analyzed two lines of motor neurons in an animal model. They examined the size of the neuron’s soma — the cell body of the neuron that can shrink with age — using a light microscope at different age points. They also measured levels of lipofuscin, the biological equivalent of rust. It’s a residual pigment that appears in aging organs.

“We found that the motor neurons retain their soma size despite an accumulation of large amounts of cellular waste or lipofuscin,” Valdez said.

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