Washington | Scientists have discovered a new way to treat muscle regeneration in patients with severe burns using stem cell therapy. The research, from the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in the US, shows that while a severe burn injury causes cell death in the muscles, it also induces the muscle regeneration properties of specific stem cells (satellite cells, the resident stem cell in skeletal muscle cells).
This highlights the therapeutic potential of satellite cells, allowing future studies to find ways to promote muscle regeneration and reduce muscle damage post-burn. Severe burn trauma causes extended skeletal muscle damage and loss, which can result in delayed recovery and other complications such as infection. Satellite cells are responsible for maintaining and regenerating skeletal muscle following injury.
The researchers collected tissue samples from 12 patients with severe burn injuries and 12 healthy subjects. They used immunohistochemical techniques to analyse and compare the satellite cell content, activation and cell death (apoptosis), as well as muscle fibre regeneration in the tissue samples.
The researchers found that in burn patients, these cells are receiving a mixed signal, one that induces cell death and one which induces muscle regeneration. We found a very high amount of the marker protein Ki67, which indicates that the burn injury activates satellite cells and thus stimulates skeletal muscle regeneration, said Christopher S Fry, assistant professor at the UTMB.
Our results highlight the therapeutic potential of satellite cells to aid regeneration and preservation of muscle mass following a severe burn injury, said Celeste C Finnerty, from UTMB.
Future studies can now investigate therapies that can prevent satellite cells from cell death and promote their activity to regenerate skeletal cells, improving the recovery of severe burns patients, she said. But before this can happen, it is essential to fully understand how these cells respond to burn injuries, she added.