Embryonic stem cells have revolutionised our understanding of normal and deregulated growth and development. The potential to produce cells and tissues as needed offers enormous therapeutic potential. The use of these cells, however, is accompanied by ongoing ethical, religious and biomedical issues. The expansion potential and plasticity of adult stem cells have therefore received much interest. Adult skeletal muscle is highly adaptable, responding to both the hypertrophic and degenerative stresses placed upon it. This extreme plasticity is in part regulated by resident stem cells. In addition to regenerating muscle, if exposed to osteogenic or adipogenic inducers, these cells spontaneously form osteoblasts or adipocytes. The potential for and heterogeneity of muscle stem cells is underscored by the observation that CD45+ muscle side population cells are capable of reconstituting bone marrow in lethally irradiated mice and of contributing to neovascularisation of regenerating muscle. Finally, first attempts to replace infarcted myocardium relied on injection of skeletal myoblasts into the heart. Cells successfully engrafted and cardiac function was improved. Harnessing their differentiation/trans-differentiation capacity provides enormous potential for adult stem cells. In this review, current understanding of the different stem cells within muscle will be discussed as will their potential utility for regenerative medicine.
Keywords: Muscle, stem cell, plasticity, satellite cell, differentiation, degeneration
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