Biologists at the John Hopkins University have discovered that proteins are key in the life of stem cells and can boost the muscle tissue growth that was damaged. The treatment of diseases such as muscular dystrophy or degeneration of muscles caused by old age could potentially be the next step.
The Nature Medicine published a journal with the results showing that a certain type of protein which is called integrin is existing on the surface of the stem cell and is used by the cells to network with their surroundings. The ability of stem cells to sense their environment is called ‘niche’ which in turn affects how they survive and last for the regeneration. The protein β1-integrin has the capability to encourage the transformation of the indistinguishable stem cells into the muscles after the breakdown of the tissue has happened. The regenerated process also improves the muscle fiber growth with as much as 50 percent.
There are 28 different types of integrin and in this experiment, it was shown that β1-integrin is able to maintain the link between the environment and the stem cell. It cooperates biochemically with fibroblast growth factor, referred to as FGF, to enhance the stem cell growth and the restoration when a muscle suffered tissue injury. The FGF does not respond to aged stem cells on its own however with the β1-integrin introduced; the aged stem cells show an ability to respond to the FGF to improve the muscle regeneration.
The Efforts of Researchers and Effects
The researchers tracked and tested some of the proteins that were inside the stem cells. They looked at the effect on the stem cell when removing β1-integrin and came to the understanding that the stem cells activities are dependant on the environment and need to be supported by the proteins that are present. The experiment is clear in determining that without the β1-integrin, muscles that have tissue injury could not sustain growth.
The effects of the β1-integrin molecules and the proteins that were tracking the stem cell activity were examined, and it was found when the proteins were removed from stem cells they looked like they were removed from aged stem cells. An antibody was injected into the aged stem cells to boost the B1-integrin function and test whether this way of treatment was to increase the muscle regeneration. The measurements of the fiber growth in muscles with and without the boosting showed that the boost with the protein increased the regeneration by as much as 50% more in the cases of injury of aged mice.
The experiment was conducted on mice with muscular dystrophy with the same β1-integrin boost strategy, increasing the muscle strength by around 35 percent. The research team will try to find an explanation as to what is occurring inside the stem cells as they respond to their environment. This will be used as a step to understanding more about how they react to each other and in turn, can be used to help refine the administration of integrin therapy for age-related diseases like muscular dystrophy and other muscle degeneration illnesses. However, further refinement is required for this method to become a viable treatment.