MDF Fellow Advances Muscle Stem Cell Research

Published on Tue, 06/07/2016

Dr. Yao Yao, a former MDF Fellow, has brought us a step closer to effective muscle stem cell therapies for muscular dystrophy.

Dr. Yao identified a cell signaling mechanism by which muscle stem cells are directed to aid muscle regeneration. His work was recently published in the prestigious research journal, Nature Communications.

Muscle stem cells are responsible for the growth and regeneration of skeletal muscles. They are located immediately adjacent to muscle fibers and divide and fuse with the muscle fiber to increase its size and strength, for example, when you exercise.

These stem cells are also the means by which damaged and weakened muscles are strengthened and repaired. The process is very similar, whether the muscle damage is due to an injury or a muscle wasting disease, like DM.

Because of their vital role in muscle regeneration, muscle stem cells are a potentially important target for developing therapies. Increasing their activity should improve muscle repair.

The development of cell therapies has been difficult, however, because we don’t sufficiently understand stem cell biology. Muscle stem cells participate in both muscle regeneration and the fatty deterioration of muscle. Understanding the regulation of muscle stem cell fate is a critical, early step in therapy development.

A better understanding of the properties of muscle stem cells (and the molecular and cellular mechanisms that control their fate) will be essential to using them in therapies. MDF is pleased to have supported Dr. Yao’s advances in the therapeutic potential for muscle stem cells.

Dr. Yao currently holds a faculty position in the College of Pharmacy at the University of Minnesota, Duluth. For more details on Dr. Yao’s lab, click here.


Laminin regulates PDGFRβ(+) cell stemness and muscle development.
Yao Y, Norris EH, E Mason C, Strickland S. 
Nat Commun. 2016 May 3.