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Ottawa scientists discover new way to enhance stem cells to stimulate muscle regeneration

Scientists at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI) and the University of Ottawa have discovered a powerful new way to stimulate muscle regeneration, paving the way for new treatments for debilitating conditions such as muscular dystrophy.

The research, to be published in the June 5 issue of Cell Stem Cell, shows for the first time that a protein called Wnt7a increases the number of stem cells in muscle tissue, leading to accelerated growth and repair of skeletal muscle.

"This discovery shows us that by targeting stem cells to boost their numbers, we can improve the body's ability to repair muscle tissue," said senior author Dr. Michael Rudnicki. Dr. Rudnicki is the Scientific Director of Canada's Stem Cell Network and a Senior Scientist at OHRI and Director of OHRI's Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research, as well as a Professor of Medicine at the University of Ottawa.

Stem cells give rise to every tissue and organ in the body. Satellite stem cells are specialized muscle stem cells that live in adult skeletal muscle tissue and have the ability to both replicate and differentiate into various types of muscle cells. Dr. Rudnicki's team found that the Wnt7a protein, when introduced into mouse muscle tissue, significantly increased the population of these satellite stem cells and fueled the regeneration process, creating bigger and stronger muscles. Muscle tissue mass was increased by nearly 20 per cent in the study.

"Our findings point the way to the development of new therapeutic treatment for muscular diseases such as muscular dystrophy, sarcopenia and muscle wasting conditions resulting from extended hospital stays and surgeries," said Dr. Rudnicki.

This project was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, the National Institutes of Health, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Canada's Stem Cell Network and the Canada Research Chairs Program.

About the Stem Cell Network

The Stem Cell Network, established in 2001, brings together more than 80 leading scientists, clinicians, engineers, and ethicists from universities and hospitals across Canada with a mandate to investigate the immense therapeutic potential of stem cells for the treatment of diseases currently incurable by conventional approaches. Hosted by the University of Ottawa, the Stem Cell Network is one of Canada's Networks of Centres of Excellence funded through Industry Canada and its three granting councils.

About the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute

The Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI) is the research arm of The Ottawa Hospital and is an affiliated institute of the University of Ottawa, closely associated with the University's Faculties of Medicine and Health Sciences. The OHRI includes more than 1,300 scientists, clinical investigators, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and staff conducting research to improve the understanding, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of human disease.

For more information contact:

Aneka Rao
Communications Coordinator
Stem Cell Network
613 739 6683
Jennifer Paterson
Director, Communications and Public Relations
Ottawa Hospital Research Institute
613 798 5555 x 73325
613 614 5253 (cell)

Jennifer Paterson | EurekAlert!
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