Growing old is considered a blessing in many societies but being healthy and able to move even in old age is a bigger achievement. Recent scientific findings suggest that the ability to retain mobility even in old age might be tied to variations in a gene that is responsible for dopamine regulation.
Scientists from the University of Pittsburgh recently published the findings of a study conducted to determine the relationship between dopamine regulation and old-age mobility. The findings of the study were published in the Journal of The American Geriatrics Society. The findings from the research contribute to increasing evidence that lower dopamine levels might be associated with lower mobility in old age.
“Most people think about dopamine’s role in mobility in the context of Parkinson’s disease, but not in normal aging,” stated Dr. Caterina Rosano, an epidemiology professor at Pitt Public Health.
Dr. Rosano also noted that scientists are eager to find out whether there is a genetic predisposition to more or less dopamine production which might have an impact on mobility as people age. One of the key areas of focus in the research is a gene called COMT whose role is to control dopamine levels in the brain.
What the researchers concluded from the study
Dr. Rosano and her fellow researchers studied more than 500 study participants above 65 years old. They made sure that none of the subjects in the study had Parkinson’s disease and that they were not on dopamine-related medication. The scientists found that participants with the COMT genotype associated with high dopamine levels could walk 10% faster than their counterparts that have the low-dopamine COMT genotype.
Dr. Rosano noted that the 10% might not seem like a major difference but it is a significant change in older folks when it comes to mundane activities like walking. Dr. Rosano and her team are working towards determining what dopamine levels can help elderly adults to retain their strength and mobility. The idea is that perhaps the findings could be used to influence the development of pharmacological dopamine supplements that can be administered to aging adults to help them maintain their mobility.