Myocardial infarcts heal by scarring because myocardium cannot regenerate. To determine if skeletal myoblasts could establish new contractile tissue, hearts of adult inbred rats were injured by freeze-thaw, and 3-4.5 x 10(6) neonatal skeletal muscle cells were transplanted immediately thereafter. At 1 d the graft cells were proliferating and did not express myosin heavy chain (MHC). By 3 d, multinucleated myotubes were present which expressed both embryonic and fast fiber MHCs. At 2 wk, electron microscopy demonstrated possible satellite stem cells. By 7 wk the grafts began expressing beta-MHC, a hallmark of the slow fiber phenotype; coexpression of embryonic, fast, and beta-MHC continued through 3 mo. Transplanting myoblasts 1 wk after injury yielded comparable results, except that grafts expressed beta-MHC sooner (by 2 wk). Grafts never expressed cardiac-specific MHC-alpha. Wounds containing 2-wk-old myoblast grafts contracted when stimulated ex vivo, and high frequency stimulation induced tetanus. Furthermore, the grafts could perform a cardiac-like duty cycle, alternating tetanus and relaxation, for at least 6 min. Thus, skeletal myoblasts can establish new muscle tissue when grafted into injured hearts, and this muscle can contract when stimulated electrically. Because the grafts convert to fatigue-resistant, slow twitch fibers, this new muscle may be suited to a cardiac work load.
C E Murry, R W Wiseman, S M Schwartz, S D Hauschka