In a Cell Stem Cell paper released today, my team at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute demonstrated how the Wnt7a protein, signaling through the planar cell polarity pathway, controls the homeostatic levels of stem cells in muscle tissue, generating close to a 20% increase in the size of the tissue. In lay terms, this means we were able to show that by increasing the numbers of stem cells in muscle tissue, we can improve the muscle’s ability to grow and repair itself. What are the implications of this finding?
First, this is important because we now have a defined signaling pathway in muscle stem cells – we can control, to a certain extent, the numbers of cells that they produce. We can look at how the delivery of this signaling protein can be used in the development of therapies for diseases such as muscular dystrophy, sarcopenia and other muscle wasting disorders.
Second, though it is not yet certain how this signaling will apply to other types of stem cells, we can now develop targeted drug screens to test the pathway, leading to possible drug treatments for any number of diseases. The identification of a pharmacopeia of drugs that could be used to target stem cells in very specific ways could have huge impact for many patients around the globe.
Read the SCN media release.
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