Skeletal muscle is an archetypal adult stem cell model, in which maintenance, growth and repair of functionally specialised post-mitotic cells is achieved by recruitment of undifferentiated precursors. Our core research is directed at understanding how muscle stem cells are regulated in healthy, aged and diseased skeletal muscle. The functional unit of skeletal muscle is the myofibre: a giant syncytial cell maintained by hundreds of post-mitotic myonuclei. The routine needs for myonuclear homeostasis, together with the more sporadic demands for hypertrophy and repair, are performed by muscle satellite cells. These resident stem cells are normally mitotically quiescent in mature muscle, and so must first be activated to undergo extensive proliferation to generate myoblasts that eventually differentiate to provide new myonuclei. Diseases such as the muscular dystrophies are characterised by muscle wasting, meaning that this repair/regeneration function performed by satellite cells becomes progressively compromised.
The main themes of the Zammit group include investigating the transcriptional and signalling control of satellite cell activation and cell fate choice and examining pathomechanisms and potential therapies for muscular dystrophies including Facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy and Emery-Dreifuss muscular dystrophy and muscle-related cancers such as rhabdomyosarcoma.
Current PhD students:
Professor F. Relaix (Faculté de Médecine Pitié-Salpétrière, Paris)
Dr H. Wackerhage (TUM, Germany)
Professor A. Belayew (University of Mons, Belgium)
Dr S. Tedesco (University College London)
Dr Y. Ono (University of Nagasaki, Japan)
Dr C. Christ (McGill University, Canada)
Dr R. Knight (King’s).