In a new study from Tokyo Metropolitan University, researchers found that skeletal muscle satellite cells, key players in muscle repair, proliferate better in low sugar levels.
This is contrary to the conventional wisdom that says muscle cells fare better when there is more sugar to fuel their activities.
With the wear and tear of everyday use, muscles continuously repair themselves to keep them in top condition. In recent years, scientists have begun to understand how muscle repair works at the cellular level.
Skeletal muscle satellite cells, a special type of stem cell that resides between the two layers of sheathing, have been found to be particularly important.
When myofiber cells are damaged, the satellite cells go into overdrive, multiplying and finally fusing with myofiber cells. This not only helps repair damage but also maintains muscle mass.
In the study, the team found that higher levels of sugar had an adverse effect on the rate at which the muscle cells grew.
This is counterintuitive; glucose is considered to be essential for cellular growth. It is converted into ATP, the fuel that drives a lot of cellular activity.
Yet, the team confirmed that lower sugar levels led to a larger number of cells, with all the biochemical markers expected for greater degrees of cell proliferation.
They also confirmed that this doesn’t apply to all cells, something they successfully managed to use to their advantage.
The conclusion is that these particular stem cells seem to derive their energy from a completely different source. Work is ongoing to pin down what this is.
The team notes that the sugar levels used in previous experiments matched those found in diabetics.
This might explain why the loss of muscle mass is seen in diabetic patients and may have strong implications for how we might keep our muscles healthier for longer.
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The study is published in Frontiers in Cell and Developmental Biology. One author of the study is Assistant Professor Yasuro Furuichi.
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