Making new muscle: Researchers in Rome produce a mouse that can regenerate its tissues

Researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) and the University of Rome “La Sapienza” have found a way to restore some of the “regenerative” ability of tissues, which happens naturally in animals at the embryonic stage of development, but is lost shortly after birth. The scientists’ work, published this week in PNAS, gives new insight into how stem cells can be mobilized across the body, and how they take on specialized functions in tissue.

“Many labs have reported the integration of stem cells into various types of tissues, but on a small scale,” says Prof. Nadia Rosenthal, Coordinator of EMBL’s Mouse Programme in Monterotondo, Italy. “This is the first study to show that stem cells can be mobilized to achieve a major regeneration of damaged tissue.”

In a collaboration with the group of Antonio Musarò at the University of Rome, the scientists investigated muscle tissue in mice, discovering that stem cells can travel large distances to reach an injury. They also found a special form of a protein called mIGF-1 induces the muscle to send the distress signal that summons them.

“This form of IGF-1 is produced in the cells of embryos, but that production shuts down quickly after birth,” says Rosenthal. “It is also produced in quick bursts when muscles are injured. This made us think it might play a role in regenerating damaged tissues.”

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Trista Dawson EMBL

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