iMyoblasts for ex vivo and in vivo investigations of human myogenesis and disease modeling

Elife. 2022 Jan 25:11:e70341. doi: 10.7554/eLife.70341.


Skeletal muscle myoblasts (iMyoblasts) were generated from human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) using an efficient and reliable transgene-free induction and stem cell selection protocol. Immunofluorescence, flow cytometry, qPCR, digital RNA expression profiling, and scRNA-Seq studies identify iMyoblasts as a PAX3+/MYOD1+ skeletal myogenic lineage with a fetal-like transcriptome signature, distinct from adult muscle biopsy myoblasts (bMyoblasts) and iPSC-induced muscle progenitors. iMyoblasts can be stably propagated for >12 passages or 30 population doublings while retaining their dual commitment for myotube differentiation and regeneration of reserve cells. iMyoblasts also efficiently xenoengrafted into irradiated and injured mouse muscle where they undergo differentiation and fetal-adult MYH isoform switching, demonstrating their regulatory plasticity for adult muscle maturation in response to signals in the host muscle. Xenograft muscle retains PAX3+ muscle progenitors and can regenerate human muscle in response to secondary injury. As models of disease, iMyoblasts from individuals with Facioscapulohumeral Muscular Dystrophy revealed a previously unknown epigenetic regulatory mechanism controlling developmental expression of the pathological DUX4 gene. iMyoblasts from Limb-Girdle Muscular Dystrophy R7 and R9 and Walker Warburg Syndrome patients modeled their molecular disease pathologies and were responsive to small molecule and gene editing therapeutics. These findings establish the utility of iMyoblasts for ex vivo and in vivo investigations of human myogenesis and disease pathogenesis and for the development of muscle stem cell therapeutics.

Keywords: developmental biology; human; human ipsc myogenesis; iMyoblasts; mouse; muscle stem cells; regenerative medicine; stem cells; xenograft.

Plain language summary

Muscular dystrophies are a group of inherited genetic diseases characterised by progressive muscle weakness. They lead to disability or even death, and no cure exists against these conditions. Advances in genome sequencing have identified many mutations that underly muscular dystrophies, opening the door to new therapies that could repair incorrect genes or rebuild damaged muscles. However, testing these ideas requires better ways to recreate human muscular dystrophy in the laboratory. One strategy for modelling muscular dystrophy involves coaxing skin or other cells from an individual into becoming ‘induced pluripotent stem cells’; these can then mature to form almost any adult cell in the body, including muscles. However, this approach does not usually create myoblasts, the ‘precursor’ cells that specifically mature into muscle during development. This limits investigations into how disease-causing mutations impact muscle formation early on. As a response, Guo et al. developed a two-step protocol of muscle maturation followed by stem cell growth selection to isolate and grow ‘induced myoblasts’ from induced pluripotent stem cells taken from healthy volunteers and muscular dystrophy patients. These induced myoblasts can both make more of themselves and become muscle, allowing Guo et al. to model three different types of muscular dystrophy. These myoblasts also behave as stem cells when grafted inside adult mouse muscles: some formed human muscle tissue while others remained as precursor cells, which could then respond to muscle injury and start repair. The induced myoblasts developed by Guo et al. will enable scientists to investigate the impacts of different mutations on muscle tissue and to better test treatments. They could also be used as part of regenerative medicine therapies, to restore muscle cells in patients.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Lineage
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Homeodomain Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / cytology
  • Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells / transplantation*
  • Mice
  • Muscle Development
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Facioscapulohumeral / pathology
  • Muscular Dystrophy, Facioscapulohumeral / therapy*
  • Myoblasts / transplantation*
  • PAX3 Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Recovery of Function
  • Regeneration


  • Dux4 protein, mouse
  • Homeodomain Proteins
  • PAX3 Transcription Factor
  • Pax3 protein, mouse