Exercise triggers stem cells in muscle

February 6, 2012

University of Illinois researchers determined that an adult stem cell present in muscle is responsive to exercise, a discovery that may provide a link between exercise and muscle health. The findings could lead to new therapeutic techniques using these cells to rehabilitate injured muscle and prevent or restore muscle loss with age.

Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in have been known to be important for muscle repair in response to non-physiological injury, predominantly in response to chemical injections that significantly damage and induce inflammation. The researchers, led by kinesiology and community health professor Marni Boppart, investigated whether MSCs also responded to strain during exercise, and if so, how.

"Since exercise can induce some injury as part of the remodeling process following , we wondered if MSC accumulation was a natural response to exercise and whether these cells contributed to the beneficial regeneration and growth process that occurs post-exercise," said Boppart, who also is affiliated with the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the U. of I.

The researchers found that MSCs in muscle are very responsive to mechanical strain. They witnessed MSC accumulation in muscle of mice after . Then, they determined that although MSCs don't directly contribute to building new , they release growth factors that spur other cells in muscle to fuse and generate new muscle, providing the for enhanced muscle health following exercise.

A key element to the Illinois team's method was in exercising the mice before isolating the cells to trigger secretion of beneficial . Then, they dyed the cells with a fluorescent marker and injected them into other mice to6 see how MSCs coordinated with other muscle-building cells.

In addition to examining the cells in vivo, the researchers studied the cells' response to strain on different substrates. They found that MSC response is very sensitive to the mechanical environment, indicating that conditions of muscle strain affect the cells' activity.

"These findings are important because we've identified an adult stem cell in muscle that may provide the basis for muscle health with exercise and enhanced muscle healing with rehabilitation/movement therapy," Boppart said. "The fact that MSCs in muscle have the potential to release high concentrations of growth factor into the circulatory system during exercise also makes us wonder if they provide a critical link between enhanced whole-body health and participation in routine physical activity."

Next, the group hopes to determine whether these cells contribute to the decline in muscle mass over a person's lifetime. Preliminary data suggest MSCs become deficient in muscle with age. The team hopes to develop a combinatorial therapy that utilizes molecular and stem-cell-based strategies to prevent age-related .

"Although exercise is the best strategy for preserving muscle as we age, some individuals are just not able to effectively engage in physical activity," Boppart said. "Disabilities can limit opportunities for muscle growth. We're working hard to understand how we can best utilize these cells effectively to preserve muscle mass in the face of atrophy."

The team published its findings in the journal PLoS One. The Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute, the Ellison Medical Foundation and the Mary Jane Neer Foundation supported this work.

Explore further: Crucial role for molecule in muscle development

More information: The paper, "Eccentric Exercise Facilitates Mesenchymal Stem Cell Appearance in Skeletal Muscle," is available online on PLoS ONE site.

Related Stories

Crucial role for molecule in muscle development

July 4, 2011
Research led by the University of East Anglia has discovered the crucial role of a molecule in skeletal muscle development.

Recommended for you

Link between cells associated with aging and bone loss

August 21, 2017
Mayo Clinic researchers have reported a causal link between senescent cells - the cells associated with aging and age-related disease - and bone loss in mice. Targeting these cells led to an increase in bone mass and strength. ...

Gut microbes may talk to the brain through cortisol

August 21, 2017
Gut microbes have been in the news a lot lately. Recent studies show they can influence human health, behavior, and certain neurological disorders, such as autism. But just how do they communicate with the brain? Results ...

Are stem cells the link between bacteria and cancer?

August 17, 2017
Gastric carcinoma is one of the most common causes of cancer-related deaths, primarily because most patients present at an advanced stage of the disease. The main cause of this cancer is the bacterium Helicobacter pylori, ...

Two-step process leads to cell immortalization and cancer

August 17, 2017
A mutation that helps make cells immortal is critical to the development of a tumor, but new research at the University of California, Berkeley suggests that becoming immortal is a more complicated process than originally ...

New Pathology Atlas maps genes in cancer to accelerate progress in personalized medicine

August 17, 2017
A new Pathology Atlas is launched today with an analysis of all human genes in all major cancers showing the consequence of their corresponding protein levels for overall patient survival. The difference in expression patterns ...

Female mouse embryos actively remove male reproductive systems

August 17, 2017
A protein called COUP-TFII determines whether a mouse embryo develops a male reproductive tract, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health and their colleagues at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston. The ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.