Stem Cell Trouble Slows Healing of Aging Muscle

THURSDAY Aug. 9, 2007 -- Poor stem cell communication causes the slow, incomplete muscle healing associated with aging, a new study suggests.

Publishing in the Aug. 10 issue of the journal Science, researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine found an age-related decline in the lines of communication to the stem cells of muscles. The stem cells receive garbled messages about muscle repair, which leads to slower and poorer quality healing.

The Stanford team also identified a key player in this process, a protein called Wnt. It's believed to help in the maintenance and proliferation of stem cells in many tissues, but, in this case, Wnt appears to block proper communication to muscle stem cells.

"This was a total surprise. We had no idea that the Wnt signaling pathway would have a negative effect on stem cell function," senior author Dr. Thomas Rando, associate professor of neurology and neurological sciences, said in a prepared statement.

The finding could lead to new treatments for injuries in muscles and other tissues.

"Theoretically, given the number of ways to block Wnt and Wnt signaling, one could envision this becoming a therapeutic. You could potentially enhance the healing of aged tissues by reducing this effect of Wnt signaling on the resident stem cells," Rando said.

More information

The MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia has more about age-related changes in muscle, bones and joints.

Posted: August 2007


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