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Abstract

In adult individuals when most tissues have progressively lost the ability to regenerate, bone maintains the potential for a continuous self remodeling. The bone marrow has been so far the main recognized source of osteoprogenitor cells that contribute to the turnover of the skeletal scaffold. The possibility though exists that a pool of osteoprogenitor cells resides within other adult tissues and in particular, as reported previously, in other connective tissues such as fat and skeletal muscle. In an attempt to identify an alternative source of osteoprogenitor cells other than bone marrow we looked into the skeletal muscle. A plastic adhering cell population, from now on referred to as skeletal muscle derived cells (SMDCs), was obtained from biopsies of human skeletal muscle. SMDCs were clonogenic and displayed a fibroblast-like morphology. The isolated cell population had a mesenchymal origin as indicated by abundant expression of type I collagen, fibronectin, and vimentin and appeared heterogeneous. SMDCs were positive for α smooth actin, and to a lesser extent for desmin and α sarcomeric myosin, two specific markers of the myogenic phenotype. Surprisingly though SMDCs expressed early markers of an osteogenic commitment as indicated by positive staining for alkaline phosphatase, osteopontin, and osteonectin. Under the appropriate stimuli, these cells deposited in vitro a mineralized bone matrix and a proteoglycan rich matrix. In addition, SMDCs cultured in the presence of low serum and insulin differentiated towards adipocytes developing abundant lipid droplets in the cytoplasm. Furthermore SMDCs formed three-dimensional bone tissue in vivo when implanted in an immunodeficient mouse, and a mature cartilage rudiment when maintained as a pellet culture. In summary, we report the isolation and characterization of a cell population from the human skeletal muscle not only able to express in vitro specific markers of distinct mesenchymal lineages (adipogenic, chondrogenic, and osteogenic), but most importantly, able to complete the differentiation pathway leading to the formation of bone and cartilage. In this respect SMDCs resemble bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs). © 2005 Wiley-Liss, Inc.