A report in tomorrow's issue of the journal Cell (now online) describes how adult stem cells from muscle were used to restore muscle in mice with muscular dystrophy (also see second press release.)

Researchers with Joslin Diabetes Center and Harvard University used specific markers (cell surface tags) to isolate adult stem cells from mouse skeletal muscle. The identified cells are a subset of "satellite cells", which normally participate in growth and repair of muscle. The cells were then injected into a mouse model of muscular dystrophy. The injected cells contributed up to 94% of muscle fibers, providing therapeutic value by restoring muscle structure and function in the mice. The added adult stem cells also formed a reservoir of new satellite cells (repair stem cells) in the muscle, and could participate in further repair if there was subsequent injury to the muscle.

Senior author Amy Wagers of Harvard noted "Our work shows proof-of-concept that purified muscle stem cells can be used in therapy," and that these adult stem cells "provide a robust source of muscle replacement cells and a viable therapeutic option for the treatment of muscle degenerative disorders."

The research team is now working on isolating the same adult stem cells from human muscle.