Journal of applied physiology (Bethesda, Md. : 1985)

Neuromuscular electrical stimulation improves skeletal muscle regeneration through satellite cell fusion with myofibers in healthy elderly subjects.

PMID 28572500


The aim of this study was to determine whether neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) affects skeletal muscle regeneration through a reduction of oxidative status in satellite cells of healthy elderly subjects. Satellite cells from the vastus lateralis skeletal muscle of 12 healthy elderly subjects before and after 8 wk of NMES were allowed to proliferate to provide myogenic populations of adult stem cells [myogenic precursor cells (MPCs)]. These MPCs were then investigated in terms of their proliferation, their basal cytoplasmic free Ca2+ concentrations, and their expression of myogenic regulatory factors (PAX3, PAX7, MYF5, MYOD, and MYOG) and micro-RNAs (miR-1, miR-133a/b, and miR-206). The oxidative status of these MPCs was evaluated through superoxide anion production and superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase activities. On dissected single skeletal myofibers, the nuclei were counted to determine the myonuclear density, the fiber phenotype, cross-sectional area, and tension developed. The MPCs obtained after NMES showed increased proliferation rates along with increased cytoplasmic free Ca2+ concentrations and gene expression of MYOD and MYOG on MPCs. Muscle-specific miR-1, miR-133a/b, and miR-206 were upregulated. This NMES significantly reduced superoxide anion production, along with a trend to reduction of superoxide dismutase activity. The NMES-dependent stimulation of muscle regeneration enhanced satellite cell fusion with mature skeletal fibers. NMES improved the regenerative capacity of skeletal muscle in elderly subjects. Accordingly, the skeletal muscle strength and mobility of NMES-stimulated elderly subjects significantly improved. NMES may thus be further considered for clinical or ageing populations.NEW & NOTEWORTHY The neuromuscular electrical stimulation (NMES) effect on skeletal muscle regeneration was assessed in healthy elderly subjects for the first time. NMES improved the regenerative capacity of skeletal muscle through increased myogenic precursor cell proliferation and fusion with mature myofibers. The increased cytoplasmic free Ca2+ concentration along with MYOD, MYOG, and micro-RNA upregulation could be related to reduced O2·- production, which, in turn, favors myogenic regeneration. Accordingly, the skeletal muscle strength of NMES-stimulated lower limbs of healthy elderly subjects improved along with their mobility.