Female Stem Cells Work Better

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Stem cells isolated from females regenerate skeletal muscle more efficiently than male cells.

Female stem cells derived from muscle have a greater ability to regenerate skeletal muscle tissue than male cells, according to a study at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

The study, which is being published in the April 9 issue of the Journal of Cell Biology, is the first ever to report a difference in regenerative capabilities of muscle stem cells based on sex.

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This finding could have a major impact on the successful development of stem cells as viable therapies for a variety of diseases and conditions, according to the study's senior author, Johnny Huard, PhD, director of the Stem Cell Research Center at Children's and the Henry J. Mankin Professor and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.

"Regardless of the sex of the host, the implantation of female stem cells led to significantly better skeletal muscle regeneration," said Dr. Huard, also the deputy director of the McGowan Institute of Regenerative Medicine. "Based on these results, future studies investigating regenerative medicine should consider the sex of the stem cells to be an important factor. Furthermore, investigations such as ours could lead to a better understanding of sex-related differences in aging and disease and could explain, at least partially, the high variability and conflicting results reported in the literature on stem cell biology."

Dr. Huard's team, and the study's first author, Bridget Deasy, PhD, director of the Live Cell Imaging Lab at Children's Stem Cell Research Center, made the discovery while working with a population of stem cells they isolated in the lab while searching for a cure for Duchene muscular dystrophy (DMD). DMD is a genetic disease estimated to affect one in every 3,500 boys. Patients with DMD lack dystrophin, a protein that gives muscle cells structure. Using an animal model of the disease, his laboratory is using stem cells to deliver dystrophin to muscles.

In this study, Dr. Huard's team injected female and male muscle-derived stem cells into dystrophic mice and then measured the cells' ability to regenerate dystrophin-expressing muscle fibers.

They then calculated the regeneration index (RI)

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