Muscle satellite cells promote regeneration and could potentially improve gene delivery for treating muscular dystrophies. Human satellite cells are scarce; therefore, clinical investigation has been limited. We obtained muscle fiber fragments from skeletal muscle biopsy specimens from adult donors aged 20 to 80 years. Fiber fragments were manually dissected, cultured, and evaluated for expression of myogenesis regulator PAX7. PAX7+ satellite cells were activated and proliferated efficiently in culture. Independent of donor age, as few as 2 to 4 PAX7+ satellite cells gave rise to several thousand myoblasts. Transplantation of human muscle fiber fragments into irradiated muscle of immunodeficient mice resulted in robust engraftment, muscle regeneration, and proper homing of human PAX7+ satellite cells to the stem cell niche. Further, we determined that subjecting the human muscle fiber fragments to hypothermic treatment successfully enriches the cultures for PAX7+ cells and improves the efficacy of the transplantation and muscle regeneration. Finally, we successfully altered gene expression in cultured human PAX7+ satellite cells with Sleeping Beauty transposon–mediated nonviral gene transfer, highlighting the potential of this system for use in gene therapy. Together, these results demonstrate the ability to culture and manipulate a rare population of human tissue-specific stem cells and suggest that these PAX7+ satellite cells have potential to restore gene function in muscular dystrophies.
Andreas Marg, Helena Escobar, Sina Gloy, Markus Kufeld, Joseph Zacher, Andreas Spuler, Carmen Birchmeier, Zsuzsanna Izsvák, Simone Spuler