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PLoS One. 2011;6(12):e29226. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0029226. Epub 2011 Dec 15.

Murine and human myogenic cells identified by elevated aldehyde dehydrogenase activity: implications for muscle regeneration and repair.

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  • 1Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Stem Cell Research Center, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States of America.



Despite the initial promise of myoblast transfer therapy to restore dystrophin in Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients, clinical efficacy has been limited, primarily by poor cell survival post-transplantation. Murine muscle derived stem cells (MDSCs) isolated from slowly adhering cells (SACs) via the preplate technique, induce greater muscle regeneration than murine myoblasts, primarily due to improved post-transplantation survival, which is conferred by their increased stress resistance capacity. Aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) represents a family of enzymes with important morphogenic as well as oxidative damage mitigating roles and has been found to be a marker of stem cells in both normal and malignant tissue. In this study, we hypothesized that elevated ALDH levels could identify murine and human muscle derived cell (hMDC) progenitors, endowed with enhanced stress resistance and muscle regeneration capacity.


Skeletal muscle progenitors were isolated from murine and human skeletal muscle by a modified preplate technique and unfractionated enzymatic digestion, respectively. ALDH(hi) subpopulations isolated by fluorescence activate cell sorting demonstrated increased proliferation and myogenic differentiation capacities compared to their ALDH(lo) counterparts when cultivated in oxidative and inflammatory stress media conditions. This behavior correlated with increased intracellular levels of reduced glutathione and superoxide dismutase. ALDH(hi) murine myoblasts were observed to exhibit an increased muscle regenerative potential compared to ALDH(lo) myoblasts, undergo multipotent differentiation (osteogenic and chondrogenic), and were found predominately in the SAC fraction, characteristics that are also observed in murine MDSCs. Likewise, human ALDH(hi) hMDCs demonstrated superior muscle regenerative capacity compared to ALDH(lo) hMDCs.


The methodology of isolating myogenic cells on the basis of elevated ALDH activity yielded cells with increased stress resistance, a behavior that conferred increased regenerative capacity of dystrophic murine skeletal muscle. This result demonstrates the critical role of stress resistance in myogenic cell therapy as well as confirms the role of ALDH as a marker for rapid isolation of murine and human myogenic progenitors for cell therapy.

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