Functional impact of sarcopenia in respiratory muscles

Jonathan E. Elliott, Sarah M. Greising, Carlos B. Mantilla, Gary C. Sieck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

68 Scopus citations


The risk for respiratory complications and infections is substantially increased in old age, which may be due, in part, to sarcopenia (aging-related weakness and atrophy) of the diaphragm muscle (DIAm), reducing its force generating capacity and impairing the ability to perform expulsive non-ventilatory motor behaviors critical for airway clearance. The aging-related reduction in DIAm force generating capacity is due to selective atrophy of higher force generating type IIx and/or IIb muscle fibers, whereas lower force generating type I and IIa muscle fiber sizes are preserved. Fiber type specific DIAm atrophy is also seen following unilateral phrenic nerve denervation and in other neurodegenerative disorders. Accordingly, the effect of aging on DIAm function resembles that of neurodegeneration and suggests possible common mechanisms, such as the involvement of several neurotrophic factors in mediating DIAm sarcopenia. This review will focus on changes in two neurotrophic signaling pathways that represent potential mechanisms underlying the aging-related fiber type specific DIAm atrophy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)137-146
Number of pages10
JournalRespiratory Physiology and Neurobiology
StatePublished - Jun 1 2016

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier B.V.


  • Aging
  • Atrophy
  • Brain derived neurotrophic factor
  • Denervation
  • Diaphragm muscle
  • Neuregulin


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