Chronic muscle loss isn’t just debilitating. Among other things, it increases the risk of serious falls…even death. However, a new urine test can detect it earlier than ever.
Although age-related muscle loss is more or less This is inevitable if you don’t take precautions, and it can be difficult to measure how quickly you’re losing muscle mass.
Unfortunately, many people don’t realize how serious the problem has become until they fall and sustain a serious injury, such as a broken hip. Additionally, their muscle loss may be related to an underlying condition such as ALS or muscular dystrophy, requiring immediate attention.
Typically, muscle loss is monitored with imaging techniques such as CT and MRI scans. Because these systems are located in the clinic and must be operated by skilled technicians, most people do not have regular or frequent muscle scans. This is where the Myomar test suite comes in.
It was created by Canadian doctor Rafaela Andrade. Her elderly aunt died from complications of the fall, not knowing the extent of her frailty before the accident.
The kit, described as similar to a home pregnancy test, requires users to urinate on a single-use chemically treated strip and then take a photo of the strip with their smartphone.
By analyzing the images, an app on the phone is able to detect concentrations of biomarker chemicals in the urine that are associated with muscle health. After feeding that data into a mathematical model, the app was able to predict muscle loss. So far, it has been shown to be 80% accurate on men and 96% accurate on women, and those numbers should improve as the technology develops further.
Andrade and his colleagues are now looking for volunteers to help with product development – those interested can sign up via Myomar website. Hopefully the kit will be available next fall (northern hemisphere).
“The idea is that if we can monitor accurate indicators of muscle loss early on, we can take preventive steps to change our behavior to protect our muscle health,” she said. “Just like we routinely use cholesterol tests to monitor heart health or glucose tests to monitor diabetes, we need to start being proactive about protecting our muscles.”
Andrade was recently awarded a $5,000 R&D grant from Mitacs, a nonprofit that promotes scientific and technological innovation in Canada.