Key points: Severe burns result in significant skeletal muscle cachexia that impedes recovery. Activity of satellite cells, skeletal muscle stem cells, is altered following a burn injury and likely hinders regrowth of muscle. Severe burn injury induces satellite cell proliferation and fusion into myofibres with greater activity in muscles proximal to the injury site. Conditional depletion of satellite cells attenuates recovery of myofibre area and volume following a scald burn injury in mice. Skeletal muscle regrowth following a burn injury requires satellite cell activity, underscoring the therapeutic potential of satellite cells in the prevention of prolonged frailty in burn survivors. Severe burns result in profound skeletal muscle atrophy; persistent muscle atrophy and weakness are major complications that hamper recovery from burn injury. Many factors contribute to the erosion of muscle mass following burn trauma, and we have previously shown concurrent activation and apoptosis of muscle satellite cells following a burn injury in paediatric patients. To determine the necessity of satellite cells during muscle recovery following a burn injury, we utilized a genetically modified mouse model (Pax7CreER-DTA) that allows for the conditional depletion of satellite cells in skeletal muscle. Additionally, mice were provided 5-ethynyl-2'-deoxyuridine to determine satellite cell proliferation, activation and fusion. Juvenile satellite cell-wild-type (SC-WT) and satellite cell-depleted (SC-Dep) mice (8 weeks of age) were randomized to sham or burn injury consisting of a dorsal scald burn injury covering 30% of total body surface area. Both hindlimb and dorsal muscles were studied at 7, 14 and 21 days post-burn. SC-Dep mice had >93% depletion of satellite cells compared to SC-WT (P < 0.05). Burn injury induced robust atrophy in muscles located both proximal and distal to the injury site (∼30% decrease in fibre cross-sectional area, P < 0.05). Additionally, burn injury induced skeletal muscle regeneration, satellite cell proliferation and fusion. Depletion of satellite cells impaired post-burn recovery of both muscle fibre cross-sectional area and volume (P < 0.05). These findings support an integral role for satellite cells in the aetiology of lean tissue recovery following a severe burn injury.
- Scald injury
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