One protein, Piezo1, is key to marshalling muscle stem cells’ unique shapes and response to injuries, but it is in low supply in those with Duchenne muscular dystrophy, according to a team at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. However, when they re-activated Piezo1, it allowed muscle stem cells in mice to return to their normal, distinctly-shaped states so that they could repair broken down, dystrophic muscles. These findings, published in Science Advances, open the door to potential molecular-level treatments that may slow or even halt the progression of muscular dystrophy.

“We showed that muscle stem cells have a variety of extensions that are used to sense their environment to respond to injuries, all of which is controlled by the protein Piezo1,” said the study’s lead author, Foteini Mourkioti, PhD, an assistant professor of Orthopaedic Surgery. “This is in contrast to previous belief, which considered muscle stem cells to be simply round and dormant in undamaged muscles.”

Read more about this research in Penn Medicine News.