Understanding the cross-talk between degenerating neurons and their target muscles could aid in the development of new therapies for motor neuron disease, but deriving skeletal myocytes in vivo had proven to be challenging. Led by Olivier Pourquie, investigators from Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute, were able to successfully differentiate mouse and human stem cells through each stage of muscle development into functional muscle fibers capable of contracting and multiplying in large numbers. As reported in the August 3 Nature Biotechnology online, the researchers then used their protocol to derive and study muscle fibers from a mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). This myocyte-generating protocol might in the future provide a platform to study ALS and other neuromuscular diseases by co-culturing muscle cells and neurons derived from animal models or from patient-derived stem cells.
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