Research in the spotlight

Problems with moving


Animatie Problemen met bewegen

Chronic symptoms of the arm, neck or shoulders, severe back pain, stiff legs – things that many elderly people know all about -  are common among this age group, and the ageing of our population means that the scale of related problems is increasing sharply.

A major proportion of these symptoms is so serious that some older people become disabled, eventually resulting in the need for orthopaedic surgery. Although this does relieve the pain, the motor function recovers only slowly after the operation, and is not fully restored.

The difficulty of the recovery is possibly the result of the often long period of reduced physical activity that precedes the operation. Pain and limited ability to move make activities like walking and cycling almost impossible. 

Inactivity, though, leads to deterioration in the quality of bone and muscle tissue, and that in turn restricts the individual’s ability to move, and he or she may end up in a vicious circle. Furthermore, lack of activity can contribute to the continuation of inflammatory response in the tissue, thereby causing damage to tissue, pain and inactivity. Training can serve to break this vicious circle.

Unique approach


MOVE Botcellen

In order to study this in greater depth, MOVE has put together a multidisciplinary team, to which various scientific disciplines are lending their expertise: cell biology, muscle physiology, biomechanics, clinical epidemiology, and the clinical disciplines of orthopaedics and physiotherapy.

In the first phase of the research, a group of patients are monitored who have undergone orthopedic surgery. The researchers conduct measurements at various times before and after the operation, and detailed readings are also made of the physical capacities of the patients, such as that of muscular strength and walking ability. This phase of the research is intended to throw light on how things normally progress and on the factors that limit motor recovery; it forms the basis for a training programme that is made available to a similar group of patients in the second phase of the project. The same measurements will be conducted on the members of this group, thereby allowing the effects of the training to be assessed. 

A series of experiments are being carried out alongside these clinical studies in order to gain a greater insight into the mechanics behind the effects of training on muscle and bone tissue. The effects of mechanical load on isolated muscle and bone tissue are being investigated by creating muscle and bone cells in the laboratory, and exposing them to controlled stretching (in the case of muscles) and liquid flow (bones), thus imitating the way in which the cells in the body are mechanically loaded. It will then be determined which signalling molecules the muscle and bone cells reproduce.

What is unique about this approach is the research into the influence of the signalling molecules that are reproduced on both bone and muscle cells. It is assumed that training muscle tissue has a positive effect on bone tissue, and vice versa. At the same time, research is also being conducted into how agents that are released during an inflammation affect the response of muscle and bone cells to mechanical load.

For more information, please go to: MOVE research  
This is a research project of MOVE