The discovery of a new protein is expected to lead to a powerful new therapy for muscle regeneration
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In order to study the regeneration of skeletal muscle, the research team led by Professor Peter Currie turned to study zebrafish. Zebrafish are popular animal models for studying cell regeneration, because they reproduce fast, they share at least 70% of the genes with humans, and they are easy to experiment with. The most important thing is that they are transparent and provide a convenient window for observing the actual regeneration of living muscles. They can be regarded as mice in the aquarium world in every respect.
When researchers studied the cells that migrated to the site of muscle damage in zebrafish, they noticed that macrophages seemed to play a role in triggering muscle stem cell regeneration. Macrophages are white blood cells that gather in any injured or infected part of the body to remove debris and promote healing. Professor Currie calls them “scavengers of the immune system”.
“What we see is that the macrophages really hold the muscle stem cells and then start to divide and proliferate,” Currie said. “Once they start this process, the macrophages will move on, hug and then the next muscle stem cell, and the wound will soon heal.”
Deep research, the team found that 8 genetically different macrophages The cells gather at the injured area. Although it has long been believed that there are only two types of macrophages in the human body: one is to quickly arrive at the scene to remove debris, the other is to arrive at a slower speed of macrophages, these macrophages hang around to perform longer-term Clean up tasks.
Among the newly discovered types of macrophages, one is called “huggers” by the research team because its above behavior is to hug muscle stem cells one by one. After further analysis, they found that it was releasing a protein called NAMPT. In addition, when the macrophages are taken out of the zebrafish and NAMPT is added to the water in the aquarium, the muscle stem cells are still stimulated to grow and heal.
Then the research team turned to a mouse model of severe muscle atrophy and found that the hydrogel patch containing NAMPT could “significantly replace damaged muscle.” On the basis of these promising results, the researchers said that they are discussing with some biotechnology companies to bring NAMPT into clinical trials for the treatment of disease, aging and damaged muscle atrophy.
The research was published in the journal Nature.