Effects of resveratrol on the recovery of muscle mass following disuse in the plantaris muscle of aged rats

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Aging is associated with poor skeletal muscle regenerative ability following extended periods of hospitalization and other forms of muscular disuse. Resveratrol (3,5,4’-trihydroxystilbene) is a natural phytoalexin which has been shown in skeletal muscle to improve oxidative stress levels in muscles of aged rats. As muscle disuse and reloading after disuse increases oxidative stress, we hypothesized that resveratrol supplementation would improve muscle regeneration after disuse. A total of thirty-six male Fisher 344 × Brown Norway rats (32 mo.) were treated with either a water vehicle or resveratrol via oral gavage. The animals received hindlimb suspension for 14 days. Thereafter, they were either sacrificed or allowed an additional 14 day period of cage ambulation during reloading. A total of six rats from the vehicle and the resveratrol treated groups were used for the hindlimb suspension and recovery protocols. Furthermore, two groups of 6 vehicle treated animals maintained normal ambulation throughout the experiment, and were used as control animals for the hindlimb suspension and reloading groups. The data show that resveratrol supplementation was unable to attenuate the decreases in plantaris muscle wet weight during hindlimb suspension but it improved muscle mass during reloading after hindlimb suspension. Although resveratrol did not prevent fiber atrophy during the period of disuse, it increased the fiber cross sectional area of type IIA and IIB fibers in response to reloading after hindlimb suspension. There was a modest enhancement of myogenic precursor cell proliferation in resveratrol-treated muscles after reloading, but this failed to reach statistical significance. The resveratrol-associated improvement in type II fiber size and muscle mass recovery after disuse may have been due to decreases in the abundance of pro-apoptotic proteins Bax, cleaved caspase 3 and cleaved caspase 9 in reloaded muscles. Resveratrol appears to have modest therapeutic benefits for improving muscle mass after disuse in aging.