In celebration of Nutrition and Hydration Week (11 – 17 March), Razan shares a blog about her research into the relationship between nutrition and neuromuscular disorders, and her work developing nutritional supplements in partnership with Danone Nutricia Research Global R&I, based in Utrecht in the Netherlands. 

The human body comprises over 500 skeletal muscles, which are under the control of the nervous system and provide support to the skeletal system. Each muscle consists of individual fibres formed by sarcomeres, which play a vital role in muscle contraction and relaxation through a complex series of events. This enables the body to execute various movements, from powerful to fine motions. As they govern voluntary movements, skeletal muscles are crucial for optimal physical performance. Consequently, physiological changes such as loss of motor units, alterations in fibre type, muscle fibre atrophy, and reduced neuromuscular activation can impact movement velocity, force, and strength, leading to diminished physical performance and potentially functional disability or institutionalisation. 

The number of people experiencing neuromuscular disorders is staggeringly increasing worldwide, underlining the impact of nutrition and diet on the onset and progression of neuromuscular and musculoskeletal diseases. The communications between motor neurons and the muscle fibres they innervate represent a specialised synapse called the neuromuscular junction (NMJ). Understanding the function of the NMJ is vital to comprehend the normal physiology of the neuromuscular system and elucidate the pathophysiology of various neuromuscular disorders. Further research on NMJ will allow scientists to expand our knowledge about the complex interplay between the nervous and muscular systems and identify potential targets for treating neuromuscular disorders. 

Ageing-associated muscle mass decline contributes to the development of neuromuscular disorders. However, recent studies have shown improved and restored motor functionality upon nutritional supplementation by targeting the underlying mechanisms of neuromuscular junction development and degradation. Therefore, nutritional supplementation has emerged as a promising strategy to improve muscle function and slow disease progression. 

The impact of nutrition on neuromuscular health is multifaceted, with specific nutrients directly affecting the neuromuscular junction, motor nerve function, and skeletal muscle integrity. For instance, protein is essential for muscle maintenance and repair. Amino acids, the building blocks of proteins, are involved in the synthesis of muscle tissue and play a role in regulating muscle protein turnover. Studies have shown that the main reason for skeletal muscle loss is the disruption of skeletal muscle protein turnover, resulting in an imbalance between the synthesis and breakdown of muscle proteins. Additionally, adequate protein intake is important for the functioning of neurotransmitters and the overall health of motor neurons. 

Vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D, calcium, and magnesium are also crucial for skeletal muscle health. Vitamin D is involved in muscle metabolism and function, and its deficiency has been linked to an increased risk of muscle weakness and falls in the elderly. Calcium and magnesium are important for muscle contraction, relaxation, and the proper transmission of nerve impulses. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish and certain plant oils, have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects and may play a role in preserving neuronal health and function. These essential fatty acids are important components of cell membranes in the brain and can influence synaptic function and neurotransmission. 

Therefore, the impact of nutrition on skeletal muscle and neuron health cannot be overstated. By understanding the role of specific nutrients in supporting neuromuscular health, novel nutritional supplements can be developed to target neuromuscular disorders and ageing-related declines in motor nerve and skeletal muscle function. 

Considering the importance of nutritional supplements as an intervention in skeletal muscle disorders, my PhD project research aims to design and develop novel nutritional supplements in partnership with Danone Nutricia Research Global R&I at Utrecht to restore motor nerve and skeletal muscle function in neuromuscular disorders and ageing. The design and development of these supplements will consider the risk factors for skeletal muscle injury and sarcopenia, amongst other neuromuscular disorders, and their effect on the NMJ. To achieve this goal, the project first focused on identifying key nutritional components and their impact on neuromuscular health using an in vitro model. 

The next phase of the project will involve the formulation of prototype nutritional supplements tailored to address specific deficiencies and support optimal neuromuscular performance, which will be tested to evaluate their efficacy in enhancing neuromuscular junction functionality and promoting skeletal muscle strength and endurance. Moreover, the potential synergistic effects of combining certain nutrients to maximise their benefits on neuromuscular health will be evaluated. This holistic approach aims to develop comprehensive nutritional solutions that target multiple aspects of neuromuscular disorders and ageing-related muscle decline. 

Through our partnership with Danone Nutricia Research, we will leverage their expertise in nutritional science and collaborate closely to ensure that the resulting supplements meet the highest quality and efficacy standards, bringing about innovative nutritional interventions that can make a tangible difference in individuals affected by neuromuscular disorders and age-related muscle deterioration. 

While developing effective and safe nutritional supplements for clinical use requires further research and development, this research project offers the potential for improved functional outcomes, enhanced quality of life, and reduced healthcare costs for patients with neuromuscular disorders. Thus, continued research and investment in developing novel nutritional supplements is warranted to understand the potential benefits better and translate these findings into clinical practice. 

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1 comment on “Design and Development of Novel Nutritional Supplements to Restore Motor Nerve and Skeletal Muscle Function in Neuromuscular Disorders 

  • 11th March 2024 at 6:25 pm
    S Thapa

    The research topic and study is of great importance . Hope the nutrient and proteins under consideration will have great potential to minimize the loss of muscle mass and its co ordination as seen in various neuromuscular disorders!


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