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Dev Med Child Neurol. 2013 Mar;55(3):264-70. doi: 10.1111/dmcn.12027. Epub 2012 Dec 5.

Reduced satellite cell population may lead to contractures in children with cerebral palsy.

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Department of Bioengineering, University of California, San Diego, CA, USA.



Satellite cells are the stem cells residing in muscle responsible for skeletal muscle growth and repair. Skeletal muscle in cerebral palsy (CP) has impaired longitudinal growth that results in muscle contractures. We hypothesized that the satellite cell population would be reduced in contractured muscle.


We compared the satellite cell populations in hamstring muscles from participants with CP contracture (n=8; six males, two females; age range 6-15y; Gross Motor Function Classification System [GMFCS] levels II-V; 4 with hemiplegia, 4 with diplegia) and from typically developing participants (n=8; six males, two females, age range 15-18y). Muscle biopsies were extracted from the gracilis and semitendinosus muscles and mononuclear cells were isolated. Cell surface markers were stained with fluorescently conjugated antibodies to label satellite cells (neural cell adhesion molecule) and inflammatory and endothelial cells (CD34 and CD4 respectively). Cells were analyzed using flow cytometry to determine cell populations.


After gating for intact cells a mean of 12.8% (SD 2.8%) were determined to be satellite cells in typically developing children, but only 5.3% (SD 2.3%; p<0.05) in children with CP. Hematopoietic and endothelial cell types were equivalent in typically developing children and children with CP (p>0.05) suggesting the isolation procedure was valid.


A reduced satellite cell population may account for the decreased longitudinal growth of muscles in CP that develop into fixed contractures or the decreased ability to strengthen muscle in CP. This suggests a unique musculoskeletal disease mechanism and provides a potential therapeutic target for debilitating muscle contractures.

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