Identification of stem cells raises possibility of new therapies

April 30, 2013

Many diseases – obesity, Type 2 diabetes, muscular dystrophy – are associated with fat accumulation in muscle. In essence, fat replacement causes the muscles to weaken and degenerate.

Scientists at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center have discovered the involved in this process, which could point the way to potential therapies. The findings are published in the April 27 online edition of Stem Cells and Development.

The Wake Forest Baptist researchers proved that pericytes, associated with blood vessels, contain two sub-types with completely different roles: Type 1, which forms only , and Type 2, which forms only .

"We found that Type 1 contributes to fat accumulation in the skeletal muscle under pathogenic conditions, while Type 2 helps in forming muscle," said Osvaldo Delbono, M.D., Ph.D., professor of internal medicine at Wake Forest Baptist and senior author of the study.

"This is important because now we have the potential to develop therapies that can block the activity of Type 1 pericytes to form fat or activate Type 2 pericytes to regenerate muscle."

In the study, the researchers were able to identify the subtypes through genetic and molecular labeling methods. Using an in vitro model, they showed that Type 1 pericytes form fat while Type 2 pericytes form muscle.

To test their theory in an , first they injected Type 2 cells into injured muscle in healthy young mice to determine if the muscle would regenerate to repair the damage; it did. When Type 1 cells were injected, they did not form muscle.

Next, to simulate what happens in diseases such as diabetes and muscular dystropy, the researchers injected into healthy mice to induce fat accumulation in the muscle. When Type 1 pericytes were injected into the , they formed fat, not muscle. When Type 2 pericytes were injected into the disease model, nothing happened.

"Our results indicate that Type 1 and Type 2 pericytes may play a critical role in successful muscle regeneration, which results from a balance between different cells in the skeletal muscle," said Alexander Birbrair, a doctoral student in Delbono's lab and first author of the study. "This study proves that each type of pericyte has a completely different role in the body. We suggest that Type 1 pericytes could be used as a cellular target for therapy to diminish fat accumulation in the muscle."

Based on these findings, Delbono's team is planning to conduct a new study using biopsied human tissue to determine if the same mechanism holds true in people.

Explore further: Stem cell innovation jump-starts circulation

Related Stories

Stem cell innovation jump-starts circulation

March 8, 2012
A stem cell breakthrough at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology could ultimately benefit human patients struggling to recover from cardiovascular disease, or serious circulatory damage from conditions such as diabetes.   Programming ...

Promoting muscle regeneration in a mouse model of muscular dystrophy

April 1, 2013
Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a degenerative skeletal muscle disease caused by mutations in the protein dystrophin. Dystrophin functions to protect muscle cells from injury and loss of functional dystrophin results ...

Muscle repair after injury helped by fat-forming cells

April 19, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—UC San Francisco scientists have discovered that muscle repair requires the action of two types of cells better known for causing inflammation and forming fat.

Findings in mice have potential to curb obesity, Type 2 diabetes

July 5, 2011
Scientists at the National Institutes of Health have uncovered a pathway in mice that allows white fat – a contributor to obesity and type 2 diabetes – to burn calories in a way that's normally found in brown fat ...

Recommended for you

Want to win at sports? Take a cue from these mighty mice

July 20, 2017
As student athletes hit training fields this summer to gain the competitive edge, a new study shows how the experiences of a tiny mouse can put them on the path to winning.

'Smart' robot technology could give stroke rehab a boost

July 19, 2017
Scientists say they have developed a "smart" robotic harness that might make it easier for people to learn to walk again after a stroke or spinal cord injury.

Engineered liver tissue expands after transplant

July 19, 2017
Many diseases, including cirrhosis and hepatitis, can lead to liver failure. More than 17,000 Americans suffering from these diseases are now waiting for liver transplants, but significantly fewer livers are available.

Lunatic Fringe gene plays key role in the renewable brain

July 19, 2017
The discovery that the brain can generate new cells - about 700 new neurons each day - has triggered investigations to uncover how this process is regulated. Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and Jan and Dan Duncan ...

New animal models for hepatitis C could pave the way for a vaccine

July 19, 2017
They say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In the case of hepatitis C—a disease that affects nearly 71 million people worldwide, causing cirrhosis and liver cancer if left untreated—it might be worth ...

Omega-3 fatty acids fight inflammation via cannabinoids

July 18, 2017
Chemical compounds called cannabinoids are found in marijuana and also are produced naturally in the body from omega-3 fatty acids. A well-known cannabinoid in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol, is responsible for some of its ...

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.