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January 17, 2011

As winner of Society for Endocrinology’s top award, UVA researcher will discuss latest anti-frailty research

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Michael O. Thorner, M.D., a clinician and researcher at the University of Virginia Health System, is scheduled to discuss his latest anti-frailty research today at the Society for Endocrinology’s annual meeting in Harrogate, England.

Thorner, who is a leading expert in growth hormone (GH) regulation and professor of internal medicine in the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism at the UVA School of Medicine, will be presenting the 2009 Dale Medal lecture, given each year by the recipient of the society’s highest honor.

According to the society, the Dale Medal honors researchers who have changed the understanding of endocrinology in a fundamental way.

Thorner’s lecture will be entitled, “Healthspan: How far can it be extended into aging?” Healthspan, he says, is the period of life when people enjoy good health. As a researcher, his ultimate goal to prolong healthspan so people have sufficient strength and health to live independently in their elder years.

One of Thorner’s primary research interests has been reversing the decline in GH levels that occur during aging. According to Thorner, GH levels peak at midpuberty and decrease progressively thereafter. This decline ultimately reduces muscle mass and contributes to the development of frailty.

In his latest study, which was published November 4, 2008 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine , Thorner and his UVA colleagues found that an investigational drug, MK-677, restored GH secretion in the elderly to levels typically found in 20 to 30 year-old adults. Taken orally once a day, the drug increased the muscle mass of study participants, who ranged in age from 60 to 81.

While Thorner emphasizes that the MK-677 research was a small-scale ‘proof-of-concept’ study, he says findings indicate that it may be possible to restore GH levels and safely extend healthspan.

MK-677 is the property of Merck & Company, Inc. which will ultimately determine if further research is warranted.

Related links:

Healthspan: how far can it be extended into aging?

Michael Thorner

Effects of an Oral Ghrelin Mimetic on Body Composition and Clinical Outcomes in Healthy Older Adults: A Randomized Trial

Ralf Nass, Suzan S. Pezzoli, Mary Clancy Oliveri, James T. Patrie, Frank E. Harrell, Jr., Jody L. Clasey, Steven B. Heymsfield, Mark A. Bach, Mary Lee Vance, and Michael O. Thorner

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