Aging vs. Damaged Muscle Cells

Stem cells respond differently to aging vs. injured muscle

Researchers at the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) in La Jolla report a surprising discovery that muscle stem cells respond differently to aging versus injury. This important new insight could help guide future therapeutic strategies for repairing muscle injuries or disorders.

muscle stem cells

Image: Michael Rudnicki/OIRM
Muscle stem cell (pink with green outline) sits along a muscle fiber.

Muscle stem cells, also called satellite cells, make a small, dormant population of cells in muscle tissue that springs to life when muscle is in need of repair. It turns out that these stem cells are not identical clones of each other but instead are a diverse pool of cells.  To understand how the assortment of muscle stem cells might respond differently to the normal wear and tear of aging, versus damage due to injury or disease, the research team used a technology that tracks the fate of individual muscle stem cells within living mice.

The analysis showed a clear but unexpected result. In aging muscle, the muscle stem cells maintained their diversity but their ability to divide and grow declined. However, the opposite result was observed in injured muscle: the muscle stem cell diversity became limited but the capacity to divide was not affected. The team leader Alessandra Sacco explains the implications of these findings for therapy development:

“This study has shown clear-cut differences in the dynamics of muscle stem cell pools during the aging process compared to a sudden injury. This means that there probably isn’t a ‘one size fits all’ approach to prevent the decline of muscle stem cells. Therapeutic strategies to maintain muscle mass and strength in seniors will most likely need to differ from those for patients with degenerative diseases.”
Alessandra Sacco, PhD

A few months ago we had posted a published article titled
Old Age – Stem cells may be the key to staying strong”.

These 2 new research articles follow along a similar path, however  current research suggests, we may need a specialised Stem Cell treatment to hone in the focus for “age related muscle loss”.


REF: EurekAlert!. (2017). Researchers track muscle stem cell dynamics in response to injury and aging. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Dec. 2017].

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