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A common complication associated with aging is the stiffening of skeletal muscles. The purpose of this study was to determine the ability of magnetic resonance elastography (MRE) to study this phenomenon in vivo. Twenty female subjects were included in the study with an age range of 50 to 70 years. Shear modulus was calculated for the tibialis anterior of each subject. There was not a significant relationship between age and shear modulus. However, three subjects had abnormally high values and were among the oldest subjects tested. There was a significant relationship between age and tissue stiffness homogeneity. More research is needed to determine whether the changes seen here are reflective of increased tissue cross-linking or related to reduced muscle quality. However, MRE shows promise as a tool to study aging-related muscle stiffness changes or to evaluate treatments to counteract these changes.
The authors are with the Biomechanics Laboratory, Division of Orthopedic Research, Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN.