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Sprott Centre Scientists Identify Novel Stem Cell in Adult Muscle

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Scientists at the Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research have identified a novel population of stem cells in adult muscle. The results, published in the scientific journal Cell, represent a significant advance towards the development of stem cell-based therapies for degenerative muscle diseases.

“Adult mouse and human muscle contains a population of cells called satellite cells that were believed to be fully dedicated to the repair of muscle tissue,” said senior author Dr. Michael Rudnicki.

“Using mice as a model, we made the startling discovery that about 10 per cent of these satellite cells were in fact a novel population of stem cells, and we developed approaches for their purification and characterization. This research raises the possibility of designing drugs that specifically target these cells to stimulate muscle regeneration,” Rudnicki added.

Dr. Rudnicki is a Senior Scientist at the Ottawa Health Research Institute at The Ottawa Hospital, Director of the Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research, Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa, the Scientific Director of Canada’s Stem Cell Network, the Canada Research Chair in Molecular Genetics, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Scholar.

“This important research, conducted by Dr. Rudnicki and his colleagues, opens new possibilities for treatment of muscular diseases,” said Dr. Alan Bernstein, President of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. “Their research highlights the importance of stem cell research.”

Dr. Shihuan Kuang, the Postdoctoral Fellow who led the study, noted that the results break ground on another level as well: “Our research shows for the first time that the scaffold that supports muscle stem cells plays a key role in determining their fate,” said Dr. Kuang. “Daughter stem cells that remain attached to this scaffold remain stem cells, while those that lose contact go down the path to become muscle cells. This tells us that any stem-cell based therapies we develop will likely have to take into account the interaction with this scaffold.”

This research project was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the National Institutes of Health and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Dr. Rudnicki’s work and the work of other scientists in the Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research is also supported by The Ottawa Hospital Foundation.