DALLAS Jan. 20, 2008 Using embryonic stem cells from mice, UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers have prompted the growth of healthy and more importantly, functioning muscle cells in mice afflicted with a human model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
The study represents the first time transplanted embryonic stem cells have been shown to restore function to defective muscles in a model of muscular dystrophy.
The researchers newly developed technique, which involves stringent sorting to preserve all stem cells destined to become muscle, avoids the risk of tumor formation while improving the overall muscle strength and coordination of the mice, the researchers found.
The mice used in the study lacked dystrophin, the same protein that humans with the fatal wasting disease also are missing.
The study, headed by Dr. Rita Perlingeiro, assistant professor of developmental biology and molecular biology, is available online today and in the February issue of Nature Medicine.
We envision eventually developing a stem-cell therapy for humans with muscular dystrophy, if we are able to successfully combine this approach with the technology now available to make human embryonic stem cells from reprogrammed skin cells, Dr. Perlingeiro said. These cells can be transplanted into the muscle, and they cause muscle regeneration resulting in stronger contractility.
The study represents a major step in the field, she said, because the researchers were able to tease out exactly the cells they wanted.
The problem had been that embryonic stem cells make everything, Dr. Perlingeiro said. They make a great variety of cells. The trick is to pull out only the one type you want.
The UT Southwestern researchers focused on manipulating genes that are active in the very early stages as embryonic stem cells start to develop into more specialized cells. At first, they activated a gene called Pax3, w
|Contact: Aline McKenzie|
UT Southwestern Medical Center