Sarcopenia is a new type of age-related disease that has been newly classified as a disease since October 2016. It is defined as a disease with a reduction in skeletal muscle mass as aging progresses and there are no treatments for age-related sarcopenia that have been approved by the FDA so far. In this regard, Deargen is challenging the development of treatments for sarcopenia using small molecules.
The term ‘sarcopenia’ is a compound word for ‘sarco’, which means muscle, and ‘penia’, which means reduction. As aging progresses, the number and function of muscle fibers gradually decreases. It is known that 1 to 2% of muscle is lost every year from age 50. The prevalence of sarcopenia in men 60 years and older is 11.6% and 38.6% in the 80s, which indicates that a high proportion of the people suffer from sarcopenia.
If the loss of muscles worsens because of sarcopenia, the speed in overall body malfunction is dramatically increased. Not only disability can be caused by falls but also diabetes patients have difficulty controlling blood sugar due to the wide range of fluctuation in blood sugar. Also, obesity can be caused by a decreased muscle’s ability to store energy or the bones can be weakened due to osteopenia. As a whole, the quality of life will decline significantly. So sarcopenia can be one of the important diseases that must be resolved quickly in the modern period that aging era is coming.
It is widely believed that lack of exercise is the main cause of sarcopenia. Besides, it is said that malnutrition accelerates sarcopenia more. In addition to these causes, age-related disease, inflammation, and hormonal changes can also cause sarcopenia.
However, in particular, dysfunction of organelles called mitochondria among these causes is commonly observed in most sarcopenia patients. Thus, a molecular biological point of view is focusing on improving the function of mitochondria for therapeutic development.
Currently, sarcopenia has no treatment, but there is also an urgent need to discover biomarkers for treating sarcopenia at the genetic level. Genes such as IL-6, SPARC, MIF, and IGF-1 are known as biomarkers for diagnosing sarcopenia in the blood, but causative genes are not much unknown. Thus, the discovery of theragnostic markers could provide key information for the treatment of sarcopenia.
We are first screening small molecules with effects of improved mitochondrial function. We target genes that are important for improving and regenerating mitochondrial function with self-developed DTI(drug target interaction) algorithm and discovers small molecules that can improve their expression and activity. Furthermore, we will use them for treatment by identifying and verifying theragnostic markers through meta-analysis of the genomic data observed in the sarcopenia model.
Through the partnership with Dankook University, we are verifying the efficacy of small molecules that we found at the non-clinical stage.
 Prediction of sarcopenia using a combination of multiple serum biomarkers. Sci Rep.2018; 8: 8574.
 Sarcopenia: European consensus on definition and diagnosis: Report of the European Working Group on Sarcopenia in Older People. Age and Ageing, Volume 39, Issue 4, July 2010, Pages 412–423,