Development and assessment of a stair ascension challenge as a measure of aging and physical function in nonhuman primates

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Year of Publication:
S. R. Scarberry, H. Prutchi, B. M. Frye, J. Herr, C. Scott, C. M. Long, M. J. Jorgensen, C. A. Shively, K. Kavanagh
Am J Primatol
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Nonhuman primates (NHPs) are valuable models for studying healthspan, including frailty development. Frailty metrics in people centers on functional measures, including usual gait speed which can be predictive of all-cause mortality. This concept that physical competencies are able to prognosticate an individual’s health trajectory over chronologic aging is well-accepted and has led to refinements in how physical function is evaluated, and include measures of strength and power along with walking speed. NHP studies of aging require evaluation of physical function, which can be difficult in field and research settings. We compared stair climb velocity to usual walking speed in 28 peri-geriatric to geriatric NHPs, as incorporating a climbing obstacle integrates multiple components of physical function: isolated leg and back strength, proprioception, balance, and range of motion. We find that stair climbing speed was reliable between observers, and whether timing was in-person take from video capture. The stair climb rates were 50% more associated with chronological age than walking speed (R = -0.68 vs. -0.45) and only stair climbing speeds were retained as predictive of age when walking speed and bodyweight were included in multivariate models (overall R(2)  = 0.44; p < 0.0001). When comparing young (10-16 years) versus geriatric (16-29 years) stair climbing speed was significantly different (p < 0.001), while walking speeds only tended to be slower (p = 0.12) suggesting that the additional challenge of a stair climb better unmasks subclinical frailty development that usual walking speed.


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