New Method Makes Muscle Cells From Human Stem Cells

March 24, 2014

Image Caption: Muscle cells are stained green in this micrograph of cells grown from embryonic stem cells in the lab of Masatoshi Suzuki at the University of Wisconsin -- Madison. Cell nuclei are stained blue; the muscle fibers contain multiple nuclei. Nuclei outside the green fibers are from non-muscle cells. Suzuki has developed a new method of growing stem cells into muscle cells that could be more suitable for treating disease. Suzuki hopes to experiment next with animals that model muscular dystrophy and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Credit: Masatoshi Suzuki

David Tenenbaum, University of Wisconsin-Madison

As stem cells continue their gradual transition from the lab to the clinic, a research group at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has discovered a new way to make large concentrations of skeletal muscle cells and muscle progenitors from human stem cells.

The new method, described in the journal Stem Cells Translational Medicine, could be used to generate large numbers of muscle cells and muscle progenitors directly from human pluripotent stem cells. These stem cells, such as embryonic (ES) or induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, can be made into virtually any adult cell in the body.

Adapting a method previously used to make brain cells, Masatoshi Suzuki, an assistant professor of comparative biosciences in the School of Veterinary Medicine, has directed those universal stem cells to become both adult muscle cells and muscle progenitors.

Importantly, the new technique grows the pluripotent stem cells as floating spheres in high concentrations of two growth factors, fibroblast growth factor-2 and epidermal growth factor. These growth factors urge the stem cells to become muscle cells.

Researchers have been looking for an easy way to efficiently differentiate stem cells into muscle cells that would be allowable in the clinic, says Suzuki. The novelty of this technique is that it generates a larger number of muscle stem cells without using genetic modification, which is required by existing methods for making muscle cells.

Many other protocols have been used to enhance the number of cells that go to a muscle fate, says co-author Jonathan Van Dyke, a post-doctoral fellow in Suzukis laboratory. But whats exciting about the new protocol is that we avoid some techniques that would prohibit clinical applications. We think this new method has great promise for alleviating human suffering.

Last year, Suzuki demonstrated that transplants of another type of human stem cells somewhat improved survival and muscle function in rats that model amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Also known as Lou Gehrigs disease, ALS destroys nerves and causes a loss of muscle control. The muscle progenitors generated with Suzukis new method could potentially play a similar role but with enhanced effect.

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New Method Makes Muscle Cells From Human Stem Cells

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