In this study, we have investigated the consequences of aging on the regenerative capacity of human skeletal muscle by evaluating two parameters: (i) variation in telomere length which was used to evaluate the in vivo turn-over and (ii) the proportion of satellite cells calculated as compared to the total number of nuclei in a muscle fibre. Two skeletal muscles which have different types of innervation were analysed: the biceps brachii, a limb muscle, and the masseter, a masticatory muscle. The biopsies were obtained from two groups: young adults (23 +/- 1.15 years old) and aged adults (74 +/- 4.25 years old). Our results showed that during adult life, minimum telomere lengths and mean telomere lengths remained stable in the two muscles. The mean number of myonuclei per fibre was lower in the biceps brachii than in the masseter but no significant change was observed in either muscle with increasing age. However, the number of satellite cells, expressed as a proportion of myonuclei, decreased with age in both muscles. Therefore, normal aging of skeletal muscle in vivo is reflected by the number of satellite cells available for regeneration, but not by the mean number of myonuclei per fibre or by telomere lengths. We conclude that a decrease in regenerative capacity with age may be partially explained by a reduced availability of satellite cells.