What is the cause of the ageing atrophy? Total number, size and proportion of different fiber types studied in whole vastus lateralis muscle from 15- to 83-year-old men

J Neurol Sci. 1988 Apr;84(2-3):275-94. doi: 10.1016/0022-510x(88)90132-3.


In order to study the effects of increasing age on the human skeletal muscle, cross-sections (15 micron) of autopsied whole vastus lateralis muscle from 43 previously physically healthy men between 15 and 83 years of age were prepared and examined. The data obtained on muscle area, total number, size, proportion and distribution of type 1 (slow-twitch) and type 2 (fast-twitch) fibers were analysed using multivariate regression. The results show that the ageing atrophy of this muscle begins around 25 years of age and thereafter accelerates. This is caused mainly by a loss of fibers, with no predominant effect on any fiber type, and to a lesser extent by a reduction in fiber size, mostly of type 2 fibers. The results also suggest the occurrence of several other age-related adaptive mechanisms which could influence fiber sizes and fiber number, as well as enzyme histochemical fiber characteristics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Cell Count
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscles / pathology*
  • Muscular Atrophy / pathology*
  • Thigh