Caloric Restriction Combined with Immobilization as Translational Model for Sarcopenia Expressing Key-Pathways of Human Pathology

Jelle C.B.C. de Jong*, Martien P.M. Caspers, Nanda Keijzer, Nicole Worms, Joline Attema, Christa de Ruiter, Serene Lek, Arie G. Nieuwenhuizen, Jaap Keijer, Aswin L. Menke, Robert Kleemann, Lars Verschuren, Anita M. van den Hoek

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The prevalence of sarcopenia is increasing while it is often challenging, expensive and time-consuming to test the effectiveness of interventions against sarcopenia. Translational mouse models that adequately mimic underlying physiological pathways could accelerate research but are scarce. Here, we investigated the translational value of three potential mouse models for sarcopenia, namely partial immobilized (to mimic sedentary lifestyle), caloric restricted (CR; to mimic malnutrition) and a combination (immobilized & CR) model. C57BL/6J mice were calorically restricted (-40%) and/or one hindleg was immobilized for two weeks to induce loss of muscle mass and function. Muscle parameters were compared to those of young control (4 months) and old reference mice (21 months). Transcriptome analysis of quadriceps muscle was performed to identify underlying pathways and were compared with those being expressed in aged human vastus lateralis muscle-biopsies using a meta-analysis of five different human studies. Caloric restriction induced overall loss of lean body mass (-15%, p<0.001), whereas immobilization decreased muscle strength (-28%, p<0.001) and muscle mass of hindleg muscles specifically (on average -25%, p<0.001). The proportion of slow myofibers increased with aging in mice (+5%, p<0.05), and this was not recapitulated by the CR and/or immobilization models. The diameter of fast myofibers decreased with aging (-7%, p<0.05), and this was mimicked by all models. Transcriptome analysis revealed that the combination of CR and immobilization recapitulated more pathways characteristic for human muscle-aging (73%) than naturally aged (21 months old) mice (45%). In conclusion, the combination model exhibits loss of both muscle mass (due to CR) and function (due to immobilization) and has a remarkable similarity with pathways underlying human sarcopenia. These findings underline that external factors such as sedentary behavior and malnutrition are key elements of a translational mouse model and favor the combination model as a rapid model for testing the treatments against sarcopenia.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)937-957
Number of pages21
JournalAging and Disease
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2023


  • meta-analysis
  • Muscle atrophy
  • muscle-aging animal model
  • transcriptomics


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