Author(s): Chiu RC, Zibaitis A, Kao RL
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Abstract BACKGROUND: Damaged skeletal muscle is able to regenerate because of the presence of satellite cells, which are undifferentiated myoblasts. In contrast, destruction of cardiac myocytes is associated with an irreversible loss of myocardium and replacement with scar tissue, because it lacks stem cells. We tested the hypothesis that skeletal muscle satellite cells implanted into injured myocardium can differentiate into cardiac muscle fibers and thus repair damaged heart muscle. METHODS: Two series of canine studies were performed. In the first series (n = 26), satellite cells were isolated from skeletal muscle, cultured, and labeled with tritiated thymidine. The cells were implanted into acutely cryoinjured myocardium and the specimens harvested 4 to 18 weeks later. In the second series (n = 20), satellite cells in culture were labeled with lacZ reporter gene, which encodes production of Escherichia coli beta-galactosidase. Four to 6 weeks later, beta-galactosidase activity was studied using X-Gal stain. RESULTS: New striated muscles were found in the first series of experiments at the site of implantation, within a dense scar created by cryoinjury. These muscles showed histologic evidence of intercalated discs and centrally located nuclei, similar to those seen in cardiac muscle fibers. Tritiated thymidine radioactivity was not identified clearly, presumably due to dilutional effect as the stem cells replicated repeatedly. In the second series, histochemical studies of reporter gene-labeled and implanted satellite cells revealed the presence of beta-galactosidase within the cells at the implant site, which confirmed the survival of implanted cells. CONCLUSIONS: Our data are consistent with the hypothesis of milieu-influenced differentiation of satellite cells into cardiac-like muscle cells. Confirmation of these findings and its functional capabilities could have important clinical implications.
This article was published in Ann Thorac Surg
and referenced in Journal of Stem Cell Research & Therapy