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Sprott Centre scientists identify novel stem cell in adult muscle

May 31, 2007

Scientists at the Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research have identified a novel population of stem cells in adult muscle. The results, published in the scientific journal Cell, represent a significant advance towards the development of stem cell-based therapies for degenerative muscle diseases.

“Adult mouse and human muscle contains a population of cells called satellite cells that were believed to be fully dedicated to the repair of muscle tissue,” said senior author Dr. Michael Rudnicki. “Using mice as a model, we made the startling discovery that about 10 per cent of these satellite cells were in fact a novel population of stem cells, and we developed approaches for their purification and characterization. This research raises the possibility of designing drugs that specifically target these cells to stimulate muscle regeneration.”

Dr. Rudnicki is a Senior Scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute at The Ottawa Hospital, Director of the Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research, Professor in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Ottawa, the Scientific Director of Canada’s Stem Cell Network, the Canada Research Chair in Molecular Genetics, and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute International Scholar.

“This important research, conducted by Dr. Rudnicki and his colleagues, opens new possibilities for treatment of muscular diseases,” said Dr. Alan Bernstein, President of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. “Their research highlights the importance of stem cell research.”

Dr. Shihuan Kuang, the Postdoctoral Fellow who led the study, noted that the results break ground on another level as well: “Our research shows for the first time that the scaffold that supports muscle stem cells plays a key role in determining their fate,” said Dr. Kuang. “Daughter stem cells that remain attached to this scaffold remain stem cells, while those that lose contact go down the path to become muscle cells. This tells us that any stem-cell based therapies we develop will likely have to take into account the interaction with this scaffold.”

This research project was supported by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the National Institutes of Health and the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Dr. Rudnicki’s work and the work of other scientists in the Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research is also supported by The Ottawa Hospital Foundation.

About the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI) is the research arm of The Ottawa Hospital and an affiliated institute of the University of Ottawa. The OHRI includes more than 1,200 scientists, clinicians, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and staff conducting research to improve the understanding, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of human disease. For more information visit www.ohri.ca.

About the Canadian Institutes of Health Research
The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is the Government of Canada's agency for health research. CIHR's mission is to create new scientific knowledge and to catalyze its translation into improved health, more effective health services and products, and a strengthened Canadian health care system. Composed of 13 Institutes, CIHR provides leadership and support to more than 10,000 health researchers and trainees across Canada. www.cihr-irsc.gc.ca

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David Coulombe
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