Unveiling The Recipe: Investigating Why Skin Cells Turn Primitive Muscle Cells

Researchers unveil new mechanisms that may help treat muscle diseases

Researchers have discovered how the recipe triggers molecular changes in cells. They previously created a method for converting skin cells into primitive muscles-like cells, which can be kept indefinitely without losing their potential to mature muscle. Scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital led the research and it was published in Genes & Development. This could help clinicians generate muscle cells that are matched to patients to treat muscle injuries or age-related muscle degradation.

The expression of the muscle regulator gene MyoD can convert skin cells directly into mature muscle cell. However, mature muscle cells cannot divide or self-renew and are therefore not suitable for clinical use. To address this problem, we developed several years ago a system to convert skin-like cells into self renewing muscle stem cells. We called these induced myogenic precursor cells (iMPCs). Our system uses MyoD along with three chemicals that we have previously identified as cell plasticity facilitators in other contexts\”, explains Konrad Hochedlinger Ph.D. Senior author at MGH’s Center for Regenerative Medicine and professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School.

Hochedlinger, along with his colleagues, uncovered in this new study the exact mechanism by which this combination transforms skin cells to iMPCs. The researchers found that, while MyoD alone can cause skin cells take on the identity and characteristics of mature muscle cells; adding the three chemicals results in skin cells taking on a more primitive state. Importantly, the iMPCs have a molecular similarity to stem cells in muscle tissue. Muscle cells produced from iMPCs were more mature and stable than those produced by MyoD alone.


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