The discovery is expected to be used to help people recover from injury and combat the loss of muscle mass associated with aging.
Previous research showed that weight lifting and other kinds of strength training increase the number of satellite cells. In aerobic exercise, muscle tissue is known to increase its capacity but the repair mechanisms associated with satellite cells had not previously been studied.
The USP group found that aerobic exercise boosted the growth of satellite cells and that significant metabolic alterations lay behind the phenomenon. The study was conducted during the PhD research of Phablo Sávio Abreu Teixeira, with the support of a scholarship from São Paulo Research Foundation - FAPESP .
"We noted reduced oxygen consumption in satellite cells, whereas exercise raised the demand for oxygen in all other muscle tissue. This is the first time anyone has managed to observe how aerobic exercise influences mitochondrial metabolism in these cells and how this affects muscle regeneration," Abreu told.
To understand the mechanism, Abreu conducted a number of experiments with animals at USP's Chemistry Institute under the supervision of Professor Alicia Kowaltowski, who has continuously studied mitochondria since the 1990s and is affiliated with the Center for Research on Redox Processes in Biomedicine (Redoxome), one of the Research, Innovation and Dissemination Centers (RIDCs) supported by FAPESP.
The findings are reported in an article published in the Journal of Cachexia, Sarcopenia, and Muscle. "We discovered at least part of the mechanism that led to improved muscle regeneration. Fuller knowledge is the first step to being able to intervene in the regeneration process in future," Kowaltowski said.