Department of Pharmacology-Physiology, Université de Sherbrooke
Niche regulation of muscle stem cell specification
Dr Bentzinger’s group studies the role of regulatory signals in the microenvironment where skeletal muscle stem cells (MuSCs) reside. Understanding how this so-called “stem cell niche” controls MuSCs and how these instructive mechanisms become disrupted in aging and disease, could help in the development of novel stem-cell-based treatments to restore or preserve healthy muscles.
MuSCs maintain and repair skeletal muscle tissue throughout life and are strongly dependent on regulation by external factors in their niche. Fundamental properties of these cells, such as dormancy, self-renewal and the ability to generate new muscle fibres, are largely determined by niche signals.
Degenerative diseases of the musculature are accompanied by changes in the niche that negatively affect stem cell function and tissue maintenance. Likewise, alterations in the stem cell microenvironment underlie the impaired healing capacity of muscle tissue that characterizes aging and diabetes. Moreover, recent evidence suggests that deregulated niche signals are critical determinants of the malignancy of stem-like cells in muscle tumors.
Despite its fundamental role in tissue regeneration and disease, the architecture as well as the integration of regulatory signals in the niche remain only partially understood. The Bentzinger group explores the biology of the stem cell niche with the goal to develop novel therapeutic approaches to treat MuSC dysfunction.