June 04, 2009
Protein Stimulates Stem Cells To Repair Muscles

Doing body repair depends on knowing how to instruct cells to do your bidding.

Scientists at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute (OHRI) and the University of Ottawa have discovered a powerful new way to stimulate muscle regeneration, paving the way for new treatments for debilitating conditions such as muscular dystrophy.

The research, to be published in the June 5 issue of Cell Stem Cell, shows for the first time that a protein called Wnt7a increases the number of stem cells in muscle tissue, leading to accelerated growth and repair of skeletal muscle.

"This discovery shows us that by targeting stem cells to boost their numbers, we can improve the body's ability to repair muscle tissue," said senior author Dr. Michael Rudnicki. Dr. Rudnicki is the Scientific Director of Canada's Stem Cell Network and a Senior Scientist at OHRI and Director of OHRI's Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research, as well as a Professor of Medicine at the University of Ottawa.

Research into how to stimulate stem cells to repair damage from muscular dystrophy also ends up being research into how to use stem cells to rejuvenate aged muscles. More generally, the pursuit of treatment of diseases using stem cells, gene therapy, and other treatments which aim at tissue repair inevitably leads to treatments useful for rejuvenation. Even without a big push to develop rejuvenation therapies we will end up with them anyway. But if we actively pursued rejuvenation therapies we'd get them sooner.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2009 June 04 10:53 PM  Biotech Stem Cells

Lou Pagnucco said at June 5, 2009 8:49 AM:

Some cognitive dissonance -

Wnt signaling also appears to impair muscle healing.
"Stanford researchers find culprit in aging muscles that heal poorly"

Also Wnt7a activation may increase vascular calcification.
"Msx2 promotes cardiovascular calcification by activating paracrine Wnt signals"

Randall, I agree that spending more on biotech would get us rejuvenation therapies sooner, but then our government would have to skimp on its very worthy budgets for war, military, surveillance, detention, ...

Randall Parker said at June 5, 2009 6:24 PM:


The 3 major entitlements programs are more than double the US defense budget. Defense is now about a third of what it was in GDP percentage terms in the Cold War period. Other entitlements programs are growing in size as well. The US Department of Defense could be shut down entirely and make only a small dent in a budget deficit that is now a few times larger than it.

My own concern is that Peak Oil is going to cause a big contraction in the scale of research.

Wnt7a and vascular calcification: If we could infuse ourselves with enough youthful stem cells then the repairs could be done fast and the Wnt7a wouldn't need to be turned up indefinitely. So maybe the calcification wouldn't be a problem?

Lou Pagnucco said at June 6, 2009 7:59 AM:


On Wnt7a, you may be correct. Too difficult an issue for me to disentangle.
Maybe agents that reportedly prevent soft tissue calcification, e.g., bisphosphonates, vitamin K2, parathyroid hormone,... may help - just a guess.

The Heritage Foundation study is written to please The American Oligarchy - check out their funding sources. You can find rebuttals on the web. Do not think, though, that I support all entitlement spending - the waste and fraud there is mind boggling.

Randall Parker said at June 6, 2009 9:00 AM:


I can find you other sources of info for US government spending by program. Do you not believe that source? Here's Wikipedia on the 2008 US budget. 2009 shows an even bigger shift toward entitlements spending and the 2010s will show a far larger shift. By 2034 Social Security alone will take 6.2% of GDP. But Medicare is the larger problem. These programs are squeezing everything else - including research.

ken in sc said at June 6, 2009 1:25 PM:

Attributing bias based on funding sources is a traditional form of conspiracy theory. Refute the ideas based on facts, not on who paid for the research.

Steph said at June 6, 2009 4:46 PM:

Yeh, what Lou said.

Lou Pagnucco said at June 6, 2009 5:10 PM:


Certainly there is enormous waste in entitlement spending - Most of the programs need a major overhaul. How accurate defense spending accounting is questionable - especially since the accounting office found no paper trail for $2.3 trillion. Just vaporized. Tens of billion$ in paper currency gone missing in Iraq too (off-budget stuff?). We should also note the staggering burden the financial bailout will be on the taxpayer. Lots and lots of swine feeding at the trough - all with their lobbyists and paid think-tank, journalistic and congressional apologists.


There are no conspiracies.

Randall Parker said at June 6, 2009 5:41 PM:


Regards waste and entitlements: I do not think governments can increase efficiency all that much in what they do. So the waste just comes with the territory. The debate over entitlements seems to me more one of values and ethics. Make some higher earning people pay for others? Or not? The majority unsurprisingly says, sure, make the minority pay for us. Good idea.

My point simply is that entitlements are a far larger competitor for dollars than defense. It was not always such. But to complain about defense spending at this point in time amounts to fighting the last policy war (and I say as someone who has been arguing for years for a unilateral pull-out from Iraq). The general direction of US federal government spending is already destined: defense will continue to shrink as a percentage of GDP. Entitlements will grow as a percentage of GDP. A lot of other things will get squeezed. Your and my favorite cause will get squeezed. Bummer for us.

eldoktor said at June 6, 2009 8:57 PM:

What Randall said!

Something's very wrong when postdocs bring home less $$$ per month than social security claimants with imagined ailments and a fraud-geared mentality.

Micha Elyi said at June 6, 2009 9:46 PM:

Too many postdocs ignore the consequences of voting Democrat.

Now, can we get back to discussing this latest use of adult stem cells?

theBuckWheat said at June 7, 2009 11:22 AM:

To those who worry about "peak oil": there is NO SUCH THING. The reason is found in basic economics. As inexpensive sources of oil are pumped dry, the market price of crude will rise. As we saw when gasoline got to $4/gallon, people start to adapt and reduce their demand. Further, and just as important, alternative sources of hydrocarbons become economic replacements for the costly crude. Those alternatives can come by conveting coal, or oil shales, even sewage sludge.

In the end, what counts is not the price of crude oil, but the price of the finished product at the pump. While it was painful for me to pay nearly $4/gallon, I know that our centuries-long supply of coal can be converted when the pump price is even lower. The only way we will run short of anything is if government intrudes on our economic liberty.

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