Autologous myoblasts attenuate atrophy and improve tongue force in a denervated tongue model: A pilot study

Emily K. Plowman, Khadijeh Bijangi-Vishehsaraei, Stacey Halum, Daniel Cates, Helmut Hanenberg, Amanda S. Domer, Jan Nolta, Peter C Belafsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Objectives/Hypothesis Autologous muscle-derived stem cell (MdSC) therapy is a promising treatment to restore function. No group has evaluated MdSC therapy in a denervated tongue model. The purpose of this pilot investigation was to determine the extent of autologous MdSC survival, effects on tongue muscle atrophy, maximal contractile force, and lingual pressure in a denervated ovine tongue model. Study Design Pilot animal experiment. Methods Bilateral implantable cuff electrodes were placed around the hypoglossal nerves in two Dorper cross ewes. Tensometer and high-resolution manometry (HRM) testing were performed during supermaximum hypoglossal nerve stimulation to assess baseline tongue strength. Sternocleidomastoid muscle biopsies were acquired to create autologous MdSC cultures. At 1 month, 5 × 108 green fluorescent protein (GFP)-labeled autologous MdSCs were injected into the partially denervated tongue. Two-months postinjection, lingual tensometer testing, HRM, and postmortem histological assessment were performed. Results GFP+ myofibers were identified in denervated tongue specimens indicating MdSC survival. Muscle fiber diameter was larger in GFP+ fibers for both tongue specimens, suggesting attenuation of muscle atrophy. Myofiber diameter was larger in GFP+ myofibers than preinjury diameters, providing evidence of new muscle formation. These myogenic changes led to a 27% increase in maximal tongue contractile force and a 54% increase in maximum base of tongue pressure in one animal. Conclusions Autologous MdSC therapy may be a viable treatment for the partially denervated tongue, with current findings demonstrating that injected MdSCs survived and fused with tongue myofibers, with a resultant increase in myofiber diameter and an increase in tongue strength. Level of Evidence N/A.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2014


  • autologous
  • denervated tongue
  • dysphagia
  • muscle-derived stem cells
  • myoblast
  • myofibers
  • oropharyngeal dysphagia
  • satellite cells
  • Stem cells
  • tongue
  • tongue paralysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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