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Muscle Cell Insights a Boon to Research

A key protein holds clues to muscular dystrophy, heart failure, researchers say

THURSDAY, Sept. 14, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- When a protein called BAG3 is absent, muscle cells that should grow stronger with use self-destruct instead, says a Medical College of Georgia study.

The finding demonstrates the importance of BAG3 in maintaining mature skeletal muscle. This information could help scientists find ways to prevent muscle atrophy experienced by people with diseases such as muscular dystrophy, heart failure and myofibril myopathy.

The researchers found that mice that lacked BAG3 seemed fine at birth, but their muscle cells rapidly degenerated and were unable to regenerate when the mice started using their muscles to breathe and stand. The mice quickly died.

The study was published in the September issue of the American Journal of Pathology.

"When a muscle contraction happens, cytoskeletal degeneration occurs naturally," study author Dr. Shinichi Takayama, a cell and molecular biologist, said in a prepared statement.

Normally, this degeneration stimulates muscle cell regeneration. However, the muscle cells in the mice that lacked BAG3 couldn't regenerate. Since they couldn't be fixed, they chose to destroy themselves.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about muscle atrophy.

SOURCE: Medical College of Georgia, news release, September 2006
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