Stem cell study could pave the way to treatment for age-related muscle wasting

May 17, 2011

A team led by developmental biologist Professor Christophe Marcelle has nailed the mechanism that causes stem cells in the embryo to differentiate into specialised cells that form the skeletal muscles of animals' bodies. The scientists published their results in the British journal Nature on Monday (May 16).

Scientists world wide are racing to pin down the complex that cause in the early embryo to differentiate into specialist cells such as muscle or nerve cells. The field has the potential to revolutionise medicine by delivering therapies to regenerate tissue damaged by disease or injury.

Differentiation happens soon after , when are dividing rapidly and migrating as the animal's body takes shape.

Professor Marcelle's team analysed the differentiation of muscle stem cells in chicken embryos. The mechanisms in birds are identical to those in mammals, so the chick is a good model species for understanding the mechanisms in humans, says team member and the paper's lead author, Anne Rios.

The scientists investigated the effect of a known signalling pathway called NOTCH on muscle differentiation. They found that differentiation of stem cells to muscle was initiated when NOTCH signalling proteins touched some of the cells. These proteins were carried by passing cells migrating from a different tissue–the neural crest–the progenitor tissue of sensory . Muscle formation in the target stem cells occurred only when the NOTCH pathway was triggered briefly by the migrating neural crest cells.

"This kiss-and-run activation of a pathway is a completely novel mechanism of stem cell specification which explains why only some stem cells adopt a muscle cell fate," Ms Rios said.

Professor Marcelle said that more than 2 per cent of the population was affected by muscle dysfunction. "Muscle frailty in ageing and disease imposes a huge economic burden, so it is critical to explore novel avenues of research that could lead to new treatments," he said.

He said the team would now focus on unravelling the mechanisms of embryonic muscle cell differentiation at the molecular level as a necessary step to regulating regeneration of the muscles in human patients.

Explore further: Life's extremists may be an untapped source of antibacterial drugs

Related Stories

Stem cell surprise for tissue regeneration (w/ Podcast)

Jun 25, 2009

Scientists working at the Carnegie Institution's Department of Embryology, with colleagues, have overturned previous research that identified critical genes for making muscle stem cells. It turns out that ...

Team identifies stem cells that repair injured muscles

Mar 05, 2009

A University of Colorado at Boulder research team has identified a type of skeletal muscle stem cell that contributes to the repair of damaged muscles in mice, which could have important implications in the treatment of injured, ...

New study hopeful on neural stem cells

Aug 05, 2006

Neural stem cells derived from federally approved human embryonic cells are inferior to stem cells derived from donated fetal tissue, a new study found.

Heart derived stem cells develop into heart muscle

Apr 23, 2008

Dutch researchers at University Medical Center Utrecht and the Hubrecht Institute have succeeded in growing large numbers of stem cells from adult human hearts into new heart muscle cells. A breakthrough in stem cell research. ...

Recommended for you

Cohesin molecule safeguards cell division

Nov 21, 2014

The cohesin molecule ensures the proper distribution of DNA during cell division. Scientists at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna can now prove the concept of its carabiner-like ...

Nail stem cells prove more versatile than press ons

Nov 21, 2014

There are plenty of body parts that don't grow back when you lose them. Nails are an exception, and a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) reveals some of the r ...

Scientists develop 3-D model of regulator protein bax

Nov 21, 2014

Scientists at Freie Universität Berlin, the University of Tubingen, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH) provide a new 3D model of the protein Bax, a key regulator of cell death. When active, Bax ...

Researchers unwind the mysteries of the cellular clock

Nov 20, 2014

Human existence is basically circadian. Most of us wake in the morning, sleep in the evening, and eat in between. Body temperature, metabolism, and hormone levels all fluctuate throughout the day, and it ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.