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Jun 12, 2014 02:47 AM EDT

Researchers Discover Anti-Aging Qualities in “Love Hormone”

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The 'love hormone' that triggers soothing sensations and emotions upon seeing loved ones has also been found to rejuvenate muscles of old mice.

Oxytocin - a hormone associated with maternal nurturing, social attachments, childbirth and sex - can be used to maintain and repair aging muscles in future, according to a study by the University of California, Berkeley.

Researchers said that the hormone has the potential to become a viable treatment for sarcopenia, the loss of skeletal muscle mass and strength due to ageing.

"Our quest was to find a molecule that not only rejuvenates old muscle and other tissues but that can do so sustainably without increasing the risk of cancer," said principal investigator Irina Conboy, an associate professor of bioengineering, in a statement.

Conboy said that oxytocin is a potential candidate because it reaches every organ and does not cause any tumors nor does it interfere with the working of the immune system.

For the study, researchers conducted experiments in mice. They found that oxytocin levels in mice tend to lessen with age. Older mice had fewer oxytocin receptors in muscle stem cells.

When the older mice were injected with the hormone, the damaged muscles began to repair themselves after just nine days.

"The action of oxytocin was fast," said Christian Elabd, a senior scientist and study co-author. "The repair of muscles in the old mice was at about 80 percent of what we saw in the young mice."

Researchers also observed that young mice, who received oxytocin injections, did not display any muscular change.

"This is good because it demonstrates that extra oxytocin boosts aged tissue stem cells without making muscle stem cells divide uncontrollably," said Wendy Cousin, senior scientist and lead co-author of the study.

Cousin believes that oxytocin could become an alternative to the traditional Hormone Replacement Therapy as "the" anti-aging treatment for women and men. The hormone therapy is associated with many health problems (increase risk of breast cancer, heart disease, and stroke) and has been confirmed unproductive in muscle regeneration.

The hormone is already a key component in the drug Picotin that is administered to induce labor.

The finding is published in the Journal Communications.

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