The biology of satellite cells and telomeres in human skeletal muscle: effects of aging and physical activity

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2010 Feb;20(1):39-48. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2009.00966.x. Epub 2009 Sep 1.


The decline in the neuromuscular function affects the physical performance and is a threat for independent living in later life. The age-related decrease in muscle satellite cells observed by the age of 70 can be specific to type II fibers in some muscles. Several studies have shown that different forms of exercise induce the expansion of satellite cell pool in human skeletal muscle of young and elderly. Exercise is a powerful non-pharmacological tool inducing the renewal of the satellite cell pool in skeletal muscles. Skeletal muscle is not a stable tissue as satellite cells are constantly recruited during normal daily activities. Satellite cells and the length of telomeres are important in the context of muscle regeneration. It is likely that the regulation of telomeres in vitro cannot fully mimic the behavior of telomeres in human tissues. New insights suggest that telomeres in skeletal muscle are dynamic structures under the influence of their environment. When satellite cells are heavily recruited for regenerative events as in the skeletal muscle of athletes, telomere length has been found to be either dramatically shortened or maintained and even longer than in non-trained individuals. This suggests the existence of mechanisms allowing the control of telomere length in vivo.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging / physiology
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hypertrophy
  • Muscle Fibers, Skeletal / pathology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology*
  • Oxidative Stress / physiology
  • Regeneration / physiology
  • Satellite Cells, Skeletal Muscle / physiology*
  • Telomere / physiology*