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Changes in satellite cell content play a key role in regulating skeletal muscle growth and atrophy. Yet, there is little information on changes in satellite cell content from birth to old age in humans. The present study defines muscle fiber type-specific satellite cell content in human skeletal muscle tissue over the entire lifespan. Muscle biopsies were collected in 165 subjects, from different muscles of children undergoing surgery ( < 18 years; n = 13 ) and from the vastus lateralis muscle of young adult ( 18–49 years; n = 50 ), older ( 50–69 years; n = 53 ), and senescent subjects ( 70–86 years; n = 49 ). In a subgroup of 51 aged subjects ( 71 ± 6 years ), additional biopsies were collected after 12 weeks of supervised resistance-type exercise training. Immunohistochemistry was applied to assess skeletal muscle fiber type-specific composition, size, and satellite cell content. From birth to adulthood, muscle fiber size increased tremendously with no major changes in muscle fiber satellite cell content, and no differences between type I and II muscle fibers. In contrast to type I muscle fibers, type II muscle fiber size was substantially smaller with increasing age in adults ( r = −0.56; P  <  0.001 ). This was accompanied by an age-related reduction in type II muscle fiber satellite cell content ( r = −0.57; P  <  0.001 ). Twelve weeks of resistance-type exercise training significantly increased type II muscle fiber size and satellite cell content. We conclude that type II muscle fiber atrophy with aging is accompanied by a specific decline in type II muscle fiber satellite cell content. Resistance-type exercise training represents an effective strategy to increase satellite cell content and reverse type II muscle fiber atrophy.


Mary MacKillop Institute for Health Research

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Journal Article

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