Enhances link between muscle-specific characteristics to function by leveraging UK Biobank data and MR imaging technology.
LINKÖPING, Sweden; October 23, 2019 – A new study published by authors from AMRA Medical, Linköping University and Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences on October 23, 2019 unveils a novel method for combined assessment of muscle quantity and fat infiltration to identify individuals with low functional performance using data from the UK Biobank.
Sarcopenia is characterized by gradual loss of muscle mass and function and is associated with disease-related complications that can be devastating to the patient and increase the healthcare burden. Accurately assessing sarcopenia is difficult due to muscle volume and function being influenced by several factors such as age, weight, fitness, pain and disease. Healthcare professionals agree that measuring muscle function and quantity is necessary to accurately assess and confirm sarcopenia, but methods to adjust muscle quantity for body size varies and functional measures lack muscle-specificity and sensitivity to root cause.
In the study, it was suggested that to enable physicians to deliver the best possible care, combined muscle assessments must be adjusted to account for confounding factors, such as obesity, and be used throughout the course of the disease. Current sarcopenia definitions show decreased sarcopenia prevalence with increasing BMI. But contrarily, as BMI increases, functional performance declines, demonstrating the need for BMI-independent measures. Additionally, some patients are unable to perform certain muscle function assessments (e.g. hand grip strength, stair climbing, walking pace), keeping clinicians in the dark as disease progresses. Objective muscle-biomarkers linked to function could expand the toolbox clinicians use to assess sarcopenia with heightened precision.
The authors used MRI-based body composition analysis to simultaneously quantify fat-free muscle volume and muscle fat infiltration of 9,615 participants in the UK Biobank imaging sub-study, each sex-and-BMI-matched with an individualized virtual control group – an innovative control. To assess the clinical value of the combined method for sarcopenia, associations with hand grip strength, walking pace, stair climbing, falls, and health care burden were compared with separate evaluations using either fat-free muscle volume or muscle fat infiltration.
Key Findings from the study:
- Hospital nights, low hand grip strength, slow walking pace, lack of stair climbing, and number of falls were positively associated with muscle fat infiltration and most were negatively associated with fat-free muscle volume.
- Fat-free muscle volume and muscle fat infiltration combined showed the highest diagnostic performance for detecting low function
- Virtual control group-adjusted muscle volume normalized BMI enabled accurate muscle assessment across BMI-classes.
Combining fat-free muscle volume with muscle fat infiltration and incorporating virtual control groups increased diagnostic performance for detecting low muscle function and adjusts for BMI. This method can potentially serve as a framework for clinicians and researchers to objectively detect sarcopenia using quantifiable MR imaging biomarkers. Furthermore, this combinatorial approach could potentially be utilized throughout the life of a patient, when they are unable to perform physical functionality tests. Lastly, this method could serve as a standardized approach, enabling cross-study comparisons, to further the field of sarcopenia research leading to better treatment for patients.
UK Biobank has already imaged almost 50,000 participants and is planning to double that number in the next three years. Professor Rory Collins, UK Biobank Principal Investigator, said: “It is encouraging to see important work like this being generated on body images of 10,000 UK Biobank participants. As the technology to do this type of research improves, we anticipate further exciting advances that will help scientists find ways to ensure we live healthier lives for longer.”
Full publication in Journal of Gerontology:
About AMRA Medical
AMRA (www.amramedical.com) is a groundbreaking international digital health company at the forefront of medical imaging and precision medicine. The company has developed a new global standard in body composition assessment, the ability to automatically produce multiple fat and muscle biomarkers with unrivaled precision and accuracy, as well as contextual disease insights – all from a single, rapid, whole-body MRI. AMRA was founded in 2010 as a spin-off of Linköping University, Sweden, with the aim to support transformative care and vital decision-making from clinical research to health and wellness.
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About UK Biobank
UK Biobank (www.ukbiobank.ac.uk) is a major national and international health resource with the aim of improving the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of a wide range of serious and life-threatening illnesses. In 2006-2010, UK Biobank recruited 500,000 people between the ages of 40–69 years old from across the country. The project has permission to follow participants’ health through medical records. UK Biobank has also embarked on a major project to MRI scan the vital internal organs and body composition of 100,000 participants. Over many years, these detailed data will build a powerful resource to help scientists discover why some people develop particular diseases and others do not, and to suggest new ways of preventing and treating them.
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