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Mol Ther. 2009 Nov;17(11):1948-58. doi: 10.1038/mt.2009.204. Epub 2009 Sep 8.

Aldehyde dehydrogenase activity identifies a population of human skeletal muscle cells with high myogenic capacities.

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  • 1Inserm U974, Paris, France.


Aldehyde dehydrogenase 1A1 (ALDH) activity is one hallmark of human bone marrow (BM), umbilical cord blood (UCB), and peripheral blood (PB) primitive progenitors presenting high reconstitution capacities in vivo. In this study, we have identified ALDH(+) cells within human skeletal muscles, and have analyzed their phenotypical and functional characteristics. Immunohistofluorescence analysis of human muscle tissue sections revealed rare endomysial cells. Flow cytometry analysis using the fluorescent substrate of ALDH, Aldefluor, identified brightly stained (ALDH(br)) cells with low side scatter (SSC(lo)), in enzymatically dissociated muscle biopsies, thereafter abbreviated as SMALD(+) (for skeletal muscle ALDH(+)) cells. Phenotypical analysis discriminated two sub-populations according to CD34 expression: SMALD(+)/CD34(-) and SMALD(+)/CD34(+) cells. These sub-populations did not initially express endothelial (CD31), hematopoietic (CD45), and myogenic (CD56) markers. Upon sorting, however, whereas SMALD(+)/CD34(+) cells developed in vitro as a heterogeneous population of CD56(-) cells able to differentiate in adipoblasts, the SMALD(+)/CD34(-) fraction developed in vitro as a highly enriched population of CD56(+) myoblasts able to form myotubes. Moreover, only the SMALD(+)/CD34(-) population maintained a strong myogenic potential in vivo upon intramuscular transplantation. Our results suggest that ALDH activity is a novel marker for a population of new human skeletal muscle progenitors presenting a potential for cell biology and cell therapy.

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