New York: Scientists have discovered a new way to potentially treat muscle regeneration in patients with severe burns. Severe burns results in profound skeletal muscle atrophy -- wasting away of muscles. This persistent muscle loss combined with weakness are major complications that hamper recovery from burn injury. The findings showed that satellite cells -- the resident stem cell in skeletal muscle cells -- responsible for maintaining and regenerating skeletal muscle following injury was reduced in burn patients. Further, while a severe burn injury causes cell death in the muscles, it also induces the muscle regeneration properties of satellite cells. Satellite cells undergo concurrent cell death and activation acutely following a burn, with a net reduction in satellite cell content compared to healthy controls. The activation and death of satellite cells likely impacts the recovery of lean tissue following a severe burn, contributing to prolonged frailty in burn survivors. "Our results highlight the therapeutic potential of satellite cells to aid regeneration and preservation of muscle mass following a severe burn injury," said lead researcher Celeste C. Finnerty, Associate Professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch in the US. Additionally, a significant percentage of satellite cells in burn patients expressed protein Ki67, a marker for cellular proliferation "We found a very high amount of the marker protein Ki67, which indicates that the burn injury activates satellite cells and thus stimulates skeletal muscle regeneration," added lead author Christopher S. Fry, Assistant Professor at the University of Texas Medical Branch. For the study, published in The Journal of Physiology, the team collected tissue samples from 12 patients with severe burn injuries and 12 healthy subjects. They used immunohistochemical -- the process of detecting antigens in cells of a tissue section -- techniques to analyse and compare the satellite cell content, activation and cell death (apoptosis), as well as muscle fibre regeneration in the tissue samples. “Future studies can now investigate therapies that can prevent satellite cells from cell death and promote their activity to regenerate skeletal cells, improving the recovery of severe burns patients," Finnerty noted.