Can muscle protein metabolism be specifically targeted by nutritional support and exercise training in chronic obstructive pulmonary disease?
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) associates with several extra-pulmonary effects. Muscle dysfunction and wasting is one of the most prominent extra-pulmonary effects and contributes to exercise limitation and health related quality of life (HRQoL), morbidity as well as mortality. The loss of muscle mass is characterised by an impaired balance between protein synthesis (anabolism) and protein breakdown (catabolism) which relates to nutritional disturbances, muscle disuse and the presence of a systemic inflammation, among other factors. Current approaches to reverse skeletal muscle dysfunction and wasting attain only modest improvements. The development of new therapeutic strategies aiming at improving skeletal muscle dysfunction and wasting are needed. This requires a better understanding of the underlying molecular pathways responsible for these abnormalities. In this review we update recent research on protein metabolism, nutritional depletion as well as physical (in)activity in relation to muscle wasting and dysfunction in patients with COPD. We also discuss the role of nutritional supplementation and exercise training as strategies to re-establish the disrupted balance of protein metabolism in the muscle of patients with COPD. Future areas of research and clinical practice directions are also addressed.