Medical

Protein discovery promises powerful new muscle regrowth treatments

Protein discovery promises pow...
Researchers have discovered an enzyme that could aid in the repair of muscles
Researchers have discovered an enzyme that could aid in the repair of muscles
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Researchers have discovered an enzyme that could aid in the repair of muscles
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Researchers have discovered an enzyme that could aid in the repair of muscles

Although muscle stem cells are able to grow and repair torn muscle tissue after we sustain an injury, they become less effective as we age. Now researchers at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute at Monash University have discovered a novel protein that can trigger the proliferation of these stem cells and promote healing, offering hope not only to those who have torn a muscle, but also the elderly and those suffering severe muscle wasting diseases.

To study the regeneration of skeletal muscle, the research team, led by Professor Peter Currie, turned to zebrafish. The zebrafish is a popular animal model for studying cell regeneration due to their quick reproduction rate, the fact that they share at least 70 percent of their genes with humans, and the ease with which they can be manipulated experimentally. They are also transparent, providing a convenient window for the viewing of actual regeneration in living muscle.

While studying the cells that migrated to the site of a muscle injury in zebrafish, the researchers noticed macrophages appeared to play a role in triggering the regeneration of muscle stem cells. Macrophages are a type of white blood cell that converge on the site of any injury or infection in the body to clear away debris and promote healing. Professor Currie calls them "the clean-up crew of the immune system."

"What we saw were macrophages literally cuddling the muscle stem cells, which then started to divide and proliferate," says Currie. "Once they started this process, the macrophage would move on and cuddle then next muscle stem cell, and pretty soon the wound would heal."

Digging deeper, the team found that eight genetically different macrophages converged on the injury site. This was despite the fact that it was long thought that only two types of macrophages exist in the body: one that quickly arrived on the scene to remove debris, and another type that was slower to arrive and which hung around to perform longer-term clean-up duties.

One of the newly identified macrophage types was what the team dubbed the "cuddler" for its aforementioned behavior of cuddling the muscle stem cells one after another. On further analysis, they found that it was releasing a protein called NAMPT. Furthermore, when the macrophages were removed from the zebrafish and NAMPT was added to the aquarium water, the muscle stem cells were still stimulated to grow and heal.

The team then moved onto a mouse model of severe muscle wasting and found that a hydrogel patch containing NAMPT led to "significant replacement of the damaged muscle." On the back of these promising results, the researchers say they are in talks with a number of biotech companies about taking NAMPT to clinical trials for the treatment of muscle wasting in disease, aging and injury.

The research was published in the journal Nature.

Source: Monash University via EurekAlert

8 comments
Karmudjun
Great synopsis, this kind of research - if applicable any decade soon - will help recovery from all forms of trauma, help with physical therapy progress in our elderly. Youngsters under 50 have no clue how debilitated one gets after 48 hours on your back (or sides) after a trauma or extensive surgery. Just getting back up and walking is harder with each decade. They say a 70 yo in the hospital 2 days needs a week of PT just to get back to pre-hospitalization (4-5 days, 2 days for each day off their feet) stability - as in walking! This could really help all of us post-baby boomers.
Jim E
This also has high potential for abuse in the athletics world. Quicker recovery means more training can be done or more intense workouts.
Judit
As a sufferer of inclusion inflammatory myopathy, I would immediately volunteer as a guinea pig. Best news ever, anybody desperate for a treatment would rejoice at the news. And in OZ!
TomWatson
So we lose 10% of our muscle fibers each 10 years over the age of 40, I was taught. I see it in my "Smalling" of my body. I try and try but get no bigger. I am 74, so I guess I have to settle for functionality and not strength or solidity. ... and then you die ... Arg!
toni24
If they keep this up, we will have all the building blocks for creating genetic super men and women with bones as strong as a Grizzly, super dense musculature and thereby strength, and now enhanced healing. All they have to do now is put the package together in a string of fetuses
jettex
This sounds wonderful. The older I get, the more doctors that I meet. Not that I do not like doctors, they are wonderful and I like all of mine, but if I can take a few off my list, the happier I will be. Renewable muscles...what an idea to rejoice in!
Eggster
I expect this will be applied to damaged cardiac muscles right out of the gate!
Gregory Coe
They need to hurry up, get it done, I'm turning 70 this summer and though I work out I'm shrinking away, and I got old peoples wrinkly skin. This sounds like a wonderful find for science and medicine, keep up the good work, thank you all.