When a muscle is torn, stem cells within the muscle normally repair the problem. This occurs, not only in severe muscle wasting diseases such as muscular dystrophy and in war veterans who survive catastrophic limb injuries, but also in our day-to-day lives when we simply pull a muscle. Also, when we age and become frail, we lose much of our muscle and our stem cells don't seem to be able to work as well as they once did. The muscle stem cells are invisible engines that drive the tissue's growth and repair after muscle injuries and may, when working well, be able to also drive regeneration of muscle in the elderly when they are losing muscle and becoming frail. But growing muscle stem cells in the lab and then using them to therapeutically replace damaged muscle has been frustratingly difficult. Researchers at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia have discovered a protein that triggers these muscle stem cells to proliferate and heal. In a mouse model of severe muscle damage, injections of this naturally occurring protein (NAMPT-- nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase) (image) led to the complete regeneration of muscle and the return of normal movement after severe muscle trauma. The research led by Professor Peter Currie, Director of Monash University's Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute, was published online on February 10, 2021 in Nature. The article is titled “Macrophages Provide a Transient Muscle Stem Cell Niche Via NAMPT Secretion.” The scientists studied the regeneration of skeletal muscle in zebrafish, fast becoming the go-to animal model for the study of stem cell regeneration because the fish are quick to reproduce, easier to experimentally manipulate, and share at least 70 percent of their genes with humans.
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