The University of Manchester has just launched trials to investigate whether increasing the testosterone levels of frail elderly men could improve their strength, energy and mobility.
The study is the first in the world to examine the impact of testosterone treatment on this age-group, and is being led by Professor Fred Wu of the Department of Endocrinology at Manchester Royal Infirmary.
Professor Wu said: "Levels of the male hormone testosterone fall by about 1% a year in men over 40, leading to decreases in muscle size and strength, increased body fat and thinner bones. The changes are also associated with decreased sexual interest, fatigue, mobility problems, depression, increased risk of falling and a general sense of weakness.
"Tests on younger and healthy older men suggest that testosterone replacement could help reverse these symptoms in the frail and elderly."
Professor Wu's team is seeking 260 volunteers from across Greater Manchester for a twelve-month clinical trial. The team is expecting to publish the results in two years' time, and hopes that if the treatment is proven to be effective it may be adopted as standard practice by the NHS.
As well as increasing strength, mobility and quality of life for elderly men, the move could significantly reduce the accident-rate and care requirements of this group and ultimately reduce demands on the NHS and social services.
Men aged 65+ who have lost weight, are easily tired, slow in walking and feel generally weak for no specific reason are eligible for the study. They will be asked some basic questions and undertake a few simple tests to assess their eligibility, and have their testosterone levels measured. Only volunteers found to have low testosterone levels can be included in the trial.
Participants will make five visits to the Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility on Grafton Street at Manchester Royal Infirmary over the 12 month period, with their transportation arranged and/or paid for.
They will receive either testosterone or a dummy placebo in the form of a gel self-applied daily to the skin, for the first six months of the trial. Their muscle strength, mobility, bone-strength, muscle and fat content and general quality of life will then be assessed by the research team after both six and 12 months.
The research is being undertaken in partnership with Central Manchester and Manchester Children's University Hospitals NHS Trust. Participants are free to withdraw from the study at any time, and all information will be collected in the strictest confidence.
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