London, March 6 (IANS) Long-term exercise can be beneficial for patients suffering from Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) – a rare neurological disorder leading to progressive muscle weakness and subsequent wasting of various muscle groups in the body, a study said.
“So far, the clinical care strategy for SMA patients has been based on symptomatic alleviation and physiotherapy. Active exercise has previously been avoided to minimise damage to muscles and neurons,” said study’s lead author Olivier Bondi from Paris Descartes University.
“Our study shows, though, that not only could physical exercise be part of a cheap, beneficial long-term care programme for SMA patients (especially compared to pharmacological approaches and walking aids), it also highlights the importance of defining a specific exercise regimen to limit the neurodegeneration process,” Bondi added.
For their study, Bondi’s team used transgenic SMA-like mice as well as a control group of mice. For 10 consecutive months, the mice had to perform either a low intensity running exercise or a high intensity swimming exercise.
Throughout the 10-month training, they evaluated morphological and behavioural adaptations, as well as the physiological adaptations.
The study, published recently in the Journal of Physiology, found improved muscle resistance to activity-induced damages and increased aerobic performance in mice.
While swimming and running was both beneficial for motor neurons affected by SMA, different types of exercise had an impact on different motor neurons and muscle fibres.
Swimming protected intermediate and fast motor neurons (the most affected type of motor neuron in SMA), and enhanced the cross-sectional area of large muscle fibres, while running only protected slow motor neurons and enhanced the cross-sectional area of intermediate muscle fibers .
“Our research could provide several clues when designing rehabilitation programs for SMA patients; and the findings have already been used to design an innovative clinical trial for SMA patients in France,” Bondi said.