Endocrine Reviews Journal Article

Myostatin/Activin Receptor Ligands in Muscle

November 02, 2021
 

Buel D Rodgers and Christopher W Ward
Endocrine Reviews, First published online September 14, 2021, bnab030
https://doi.org/10.1210/endrev/bnab030

Abstract

Muscle wasting disease indications are among the most debilitating and often deadly noncommunicable disease states. As a comorbidity, muscle wasting is associated with different neuromuscular diseases and myopathies, cancer, heart failure, chronic pulmonary and renal diseases, peripheral neuropathies, inflammatory disorders, and, of course, musculoskeletal injuries. Current treatment strategies are relatively ineffective and can at best only limit the rate of muscle degeneration. This includes nutritional supplementation and appetite stimulants as well as immunosuppressants capable of exacerbating muscle loss. Arguably, the most promising treatments in development attempt to disrupt myostatin and activin receptor signaling because these circulating factors are potent inhibitors of muscle growth and regulators of muscle progenitor cell differentiation. Indeed, several studies demonstrated the clinical potential of “inhibiting the inhibitors,” increasing muscle cell protein synthesis, decreasing degradation, enhancing mitochondrial biogenesis, and preserving muscle function. Such changes can prevent muscle wasting in various disease animal models yet many drugs targeting this pathway failed during clinical trials, some from serious treatment-related adverse events and off-target interactions. More often, however, failures resulted from the inability to improve muscle function despite preserving muscle mass. Drugs still in development include antibodies and gene therapeutics, all with different targets and thus, safety, efficacy, and proposed use profiles. Each is unique in design and, if successful, could revolutionize the treatment of both acute and chronic muscle wasting. They could also be used in combination with other developing therapeutics for related muscle pathologies or even metabolic diseases.

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