Effects of aging on the biomechanics of Coquerel's sifaka (Propithecus coquereli): Evidence of robustness to senescence.
It is well-known that as humans age they experience significant changes in gait including reduction in velocity and ground reaction forces and changes in leg mechanics. Progressive changes in gait can lead to disability and frailty, defined as an inability to carry out activities of daily living. This topic is relevant to basic understanding of the aging process and for clinical intervention. As such, studies of frailty can benefit from nonhuman animal models, yet little is known about gait frailty in nonhuman primates. This study examines a nonhuman primate model to evaluate its relevance to understanding human aging processes. To test the null hypothesis that age-related changes in joint function and gait do occur in primate models in a similar fashion to humans, a detailed gait analysis, including velocity, footfall timings, and vertical ground reaction forces, on bipedal locomotion was performed in Coquerel's sifaka (Propithecus coquereli), ranging in age from 5 years to 24 years. None of the spatiotemporal or kinetic gait variables measured was significantly correlated with age alone. There was a slight but significant reduction in locomotor velocity when animals were grouped into "young" and "old" categories. These data show that aging P. coquereli experience only subtle age-related changes, that were not nearly as extensive as reported in humans. This lack of change suggests that unlike humans, lemurs maintain gait competency at high levels, possibly because these animals maintain reproductive capacity close to their age of death and that frailty may be selected against, since gait disability would result in injury and death that would preclude independent living. Although nonhuman primates should experience age-related senescence, their locomotor performance should remain robust throughout their lifetimes, which raises questions about the use of primate models of gait disability, an area that deserves further investigation.
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