Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Pericytes can be used for muscle regeneration

Researchers from the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center (WFBMC) announced today that they have unveiled some of the mechanisms involved in obesity, diabetes mellitus type 2, muscular dystrophy and other diseases associated with fat replacing muscle tissue, causing it to weaken and degenerate. Their findings have the potential to lead to new therapies for the aforementioned diseases, say the researchers.

In this study, the WFBMC researchers used genetic and molecular labelling methods and discovered that pericytes are comprised of two different populations, each with its own role. Pericytes are stem cells with the ability to differentiate into smooth muscle cells, fibroblasts, mesenchymal stem cells and other types of cells. The first Pericyte subtype (Type-1) can only differentiate into fat cells while the other (Type-2) only into muscle cells.

Pericytes characteristically lining the outer surface of endothelial cells which encircle an erythrocyte

"We found that Type 1 contributes to fat accumulation in the skeletal muscle under pathogenic conditions, while Type 2 helps in forming muscle. 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." said Osvaldo Delbono, senior author of the study.

As a part of the study, the researchers injected Type 2 pericytes in healthy young mice with injured muscles to test if they could repair the damage, which they did. On the other hand, Type 1 pericytes were found to have no regenerative effect.

Next, the researchers created a model for diseases like diabetes and muscular dystropy by injecting another group of healthy mice with glycerol which in turn caused fat to accumulate in their muscles. When Type-1 pericytes were injected into the mice, they once again formed fat tissue whereas when Type-2 pericytes were injected into the diseased mice, nothing occurred.

"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. 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" explained Alexander Birbrair, one of the study's chief authors.

Now, the researchers plan to begin a new study using biopsied human tissues to investigate whether pericytes have a similar function in humans.

Birbrair, A., Zhang, T., Wang, Z., Messi, M., Enikolopov, G., Mintz, A., & Delbono, O. (2013). Role of Pericytes in Skeletal Muscle Regeneration and Fat Accumulation Stem Cells and Development DOI: 10.1089/scd.2012.0647

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