02th March 2021
Maintaining muscle mass and strength is essential for a healthy life. Genetic muscle disorders (such as muscular dystrophies) cause the muscles to lose their function. In addition, cancer patients often suffer from loss of muscle strength and simply when aging people lose muscle mass. To date, there are no methods available for all these conditions to treat this muscle breakdown. The possibilities for a successful research are therefore endless. That was reason enough for the European Interreg programme and various public authorities to support research with a multi-million dollar grant.
The consortium is led by scientists from Maastricht University and Maastricht UMC+. The scientists from Maastricht work together with the Belgian universities in Hasselt, Liège and Leuven, with the German University Hospital of Aachen and with the companies Scannexus and Kenko International. Patients and patient organisations also actively contribute to the cooperation.
Under the name Generate Your Muscle (GYM), the researchers want to promote the production of muscle mass and tissue by means of modified stem cells. In a spin-off company yet to be established, the production of the specific stem cells will be scaled up.
Stem cell therapy
The scientists have previously discovered that a certain type of muscle stem cells (so-called mesoangioblasts) can promote the production of healthy muscle fibers. These stem cells are taken from the patient, in case of a genetic condition corrected, and grown to larger numbers. These body stem cells are then brought back into the bloodstream, after which they move on their own to the affected muscle tissue and ensure recovery on the spot. Part of the Maastricht and Leuven preliminary research was recently published in Stem Cell Research and Therapy, Cell Death & Disease and Methods in Molecular Biology. The aim of Generate Your Muscle is to test the therapy for further safety and effectiveness in patients with hereditary muscle disorders.
"This new clinical trial is therefore a major step forward for this group of patients", says lead researcher Prof. Bert Smeets. "Ultimately, we want to scale up the production of muscle stem cells in a new spin-off company to be set up. With the aim of making the therapy available as widely, cheaply and quickly as possible."