Cells from skeletal muscle could be an important source of stem cells for repairing damaged muscle or nerve tissue, suggest authors of a research article in this week’s issue of THE LANCET.
A group of cells called skeletal-muscle satellite cells are able to regenerate muscle fibres. Giulio Alessandri (Carlo Besta Neurological Institute, Milan, Italy) and colleagues investigated whether these cells can differentiate into different types of mesenchymal cell (the types of cell that eventually form connective tissue, bone, cartilage, and the circulatory and lymphatic systems). In particular they investigated the capacity of muscle stem cells to differentiate into neural cell lineages.
Arm-muscle cells were obtained from 12 patients undergoing coronary artery surgery. These cells were cultured and transferred into rats with spinal-cord injury. The cells were able to organise skeletal-muscle fibres in the rats; furthermore, they differentiated into astrocytes (precursors of nerve cells) and neurons.
Dr Alessandri comments: “Adult human skeletal muscle includes a population of progenitor stem cells that can generate cells of the same lineage and cells with neurogenic properties. Adult muscle may therefore be a tissue source for the isolation of stem cells for development of cell-based therapies for human myogenic and neurogenic diseases.”