OMNI to take part in new study that could help seniors stay mobile

Jun 20, 2017

The Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute at the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine is one of six sites nationwide selected to examine the potential for an investigational compound to promote muscle performance and physical function in older adults with limited mobility.

Persons 65 years and older are the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population, and mobility limitations affect almost one in four individuals in this age group. Older adults with poor mobility commonly require placement in a nursing home or assisted living facility and incur much higher health care costs and injury rates, so ensuring that people retain the capacity to live independently and function well as they age is more important than ever.  

The loss of leg muscle strength and power with age is a well-known factor that limits mobility. While there are many reasons people lose muscle strength and power with age, one factor is that the muscles grow less sensitive to calcium. But an investigational compound could counter that process. An article published five years ago in the journal Nature Medicine described the development of a molecule that activates a group of proteins (the troponin complex) that act as a calcium sensor in muscle.

A series of studies in both animals and humans showed that this molecule increases muscle sensitivity to calcium and enhances muscle strength, suggesting that it could be used to treat certain neuromuscular diseases. This investigational compound is currently undergoing clinical evaluation (phase two clinical trials) to see if it improves exercise tolerance in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, as well as improves muscle function and fatigue-resistance in patients with type III or IV spinal muscle atrophy.

Scientists at OMNI have recently been selected for a phase 1b clinical trial to determine whether it enhances muscle and physical function in older adults with limited mobility. This research study, sponsored by Astellas Pharma, will be conducted in collaboration with scientists at the Mayo Clinic, University of Florida, Wake Forest University, Tufts University and Washington University in St. Louis. OMNI is renowned for its aging research, in particular its work focused on frailty and fractures.

“We are very excited to be part of this trial,” said OMNI Executive Director Brian Clark, Ph.D. “While our work generally focuses on how exercise and nutritional strategies can be used to promote physical function and independence in the elderly, we also participate in pharmaceutical studies when the molecule being investigated is of particular scientific interest to our team. This particular molecule focuses on enhancing the quality of muscle, which is innovative.”

In addition to Dr. Clark, a number of other Ohio University scientists and clinicians affiliated with OMNI and the Heritage College’s Clinical and Translational Research Unit will be heavily involved in this study, including Tim Law Sr., D.O., M.B.A. (medical director); Leatha Clark, D.P.T. (physical therapist and senior research scientist); Rachel Clift, M.S.N., R.N. (senior clinical project manager); and research nurses Lynn Petrik, B.S.N., R.N., and Cammie Starner, R.N.

To qualify for the study, individuals must be between 70 and 89 years old and have mobility limitations. For the purposes of this study, the research team defines a mobility limitation as someone who has a score below a certain level on the Short Physical Performance Battery, a series of tests to determine walking speed and balance, as well as how well someone can get out of a chair. “It is hard to determine whether someone would qualify without actually coming into our facilities and doing the tests,” Clark said. “But in my experience, folks who take more than about 10 or 12 seconds to stand up and down five times in a row, from a typical height chair, may qualify for this study.”

If you would like to learn more about the study or be considered for participation, contact the study team by emailing or calling 740.566.9873. Clark will provide an overview about the study on Wednesday, July 26 th from noon to 1 pm at the Athens Community Center, Room B, and the public is welcome to attend. More information about the study can also be found on by searching for NCT03065959.

About the Ohio Musculoskeletal and Neurological Institute

OMNI’s mission is to improve the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of musculoskeletal and neurological disorders. OMNI scientists conduct basic and clinical research pertaining to the advancement of musculoskeletal and neurological health. OMNI has strong programmatic efforts in 1) pain and musculoskeletal rehabilitation and 2) frailty and fractures associated with aging. The research across these two programs has an overarching aim of developing interventions that remove barriers to independent physical mobility and ultimately reduce disability.

About the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine

The Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine is a leader in training dedicated primary care physicians who are prepared to address the most pervasive medical needs in the state and the nation. Approximately 50 percent of Heritage College alumni practice in primary care and nearly 60 percent practice in Ohio. For more information, please visit our website at CARE LEADS HERE.