Human skeletal muscle organoids model fetal myogenesis and sustain uncommitted PAX7 myogenic progenitors

Elife. 2023 Nov 14:12:RP87081. doi: 10.7554/eLife.87081.


In vitro culture systems that structurally model human myogenesis and promote PAX7+ myogenic progenitor maturation have not been established. Here we report that human skeletal muscle organoids can be differentiated from induced pluripotent stem cell lines to contain paraxial mesoderm and neuromesodermal progenitors and develop into organized structures reassembling neural plate border and dermomyotome. Culture conditions instigate neural lineage arrest and promote fetal hypaxial myogenesis toward limb axial anatomical identity, with generation of sustainable uncommitted PAX7 myogenic progenitors and fibroadipogenic (PDGFRa+) progenitor populations equivalent to those from the second trimester of human gestation. Single-cell comparison to human fetal and adult myogenic progenitor /satellite cells reveals distinct molecular signatures for non-dividing myogenic progenitors in activated (CD44High/CD98+/MYOD1+) and dormant (PAX7High/FBN1High/SPRY1High) states. Our approach provides a robust 3D in vitro developmental system for investigating muscle tissue morphogenesis and homeostasis.

Keywords: Myogenesis; Organoids; Pax7; human; ips cells; regenerative medicine; satellite cells; skeletal muscle; stem cells.

Plain language summary

Humans contains around 650 skeletal muscles which allow the body to move around and maintain its posture. Skeletal muscles are made up of individual cells that bundle together into highly organized structures. If this group of muscles fail to develop correctly in the embryo and/or fetus, this can lead to muscular disorders that can make it painful and difficult to move. One way to better understand how skeletal muscles are formed, and how this process can go wrong, is to grow them in the laboratory. This can be achieved using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), human adult cells that have been ‘reprogrammed’ to behave like cells in the embryo that can develop in to almost any cell in the body. The iPSCs can then be converted into specific cell types in the laboratory, including the cells that make up skeletal muscle. Here, Mavrommatis et al. created a protocol for developing iPSCs into three-dimensional organoids which resemble how cells of the skeletal muscle look and arrange themselves in the fetus. To form the skeletal muscle organoid, Mavrommatis et al. treated iPSCs that were growing in a three-dimensional environment with various factors that are found early on in development. This caused the iPSCs to organize themselves in to embryonic and fetal structures that will eventually give rise to the parts of the body that contain skeletal muscle, such as the limbs. Within the organoid were cells that produced Pax7, a protein commonly found in myogenic progenitors that specifically mature into skeletal muscle cells in the fetus. Pax 7 is also present in ‘satellite cells’ that help to regrow damaged skeletal muscle in adults. Indeed, Mavrommatis et al. found that the myogenic progenitors produced by the organoid were able to regenerate muscle when transplanted in to adult mice. These findings suggest that this organoid protocol can generate cells that will give rise to skeletal muscle. In the future, these lab-grown progenitors could potentially be created from cells isolated from patients and used to repair muscle injuries. The organoid model could also provide new insights in to how skeletal muscles develop in the fetus, and how genetic mutations linked with muscular disorders disrupt this process.

MeSH terms

  • Cell Differentiation
  • Fetus / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Muscle Development / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal* / metabolism
  • PAX7 Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Satellite Cells, Skeletal Muscle* / physiology


  • PAX7 Transcription Factor
  • PAX7 protein, human

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE147514
  • GEO/GSE147457
  • GEO/GSE130646
  • GEO/GSM2328841