Galectin-1 induces skeletal muscle differentiation in human fetal mesenchymal stem cells and increases muscle regeneration

Jerry Chan, Keelin O'Donoghue, Manuela Gavina, Yvan Torrente, Nigel Kennea, Huseyin Mehmet, Helen Stewart, Diana J. Watt, Jennifer E. Morgan, Nicholas M. Fisk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cell therapy for degenerative muscle diseases such as the muscular dystrophies requires a source of cells with the capacity to participate in the formation of new muscle fibers. We investigated the myogenic potential of human fetal mesenchymal stem cells (hfMSCs) using a variety of stimuli. The use of 5-azacytidine or steroids did not produce skeletal muscle differentiation, whereas myoblast-conditioned medium resulted in only 1%-2% of hfMSCs undergoing muscle differentiation. However, in the presence of galectin-1, 66.1% ± 5.7% of hfMSCs, but not adult bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells, assumed a muscle phenotype, forming long, multinucleated fibers expressing both desmin and sarcomeric myosin via activation of muscle regulatory factors. Continuous exposure to galectin-1 resulted in more efficient muscle differentiation than pulsed exposure (62.3% vs. 39.1%; p <.001). When transplanted into regenerating murine muscle, galectin-1-exposed hfMSCs formed fourfold more human muscle fibers than nonstimulated hfMSCs (p = .008), with similar results obtained in a scid/mdx dystrophic mouse model. These data suggest that hfMSCs readily undergo muscle differentiation in response to galectin-1 through a stepwise progression similar to that which occurs during embryonic myogenesis. The high degree of myogenic conversion achieved by this method has relevance for the development of therapies for muscular dystrophies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1879-1891
Number of pages13
JournalStem Cells
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2006


  • Fetal
  • Fetal stem cells
  • Galectin-1
  • Mesenchymal stem cells
  • Muscle differentiation
  • Myogenesis
  • scid/mdx

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology


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