Non-viral, Tumor-free Induction of Transient Cell Reprogramming in Mouse Skeletal Muscle to Enhance Tissue Regeneration

Irene de Lázaro, Acelya Yilmazer, Yein Nam, Sara Qubisi, Fazilah Maizatul Abdul Razak, Hans Degens, Giulio Cossu, Kostas Kostarelos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Overexpression of Oct3/4, Klf4, Sox2, and c-Myc (OKSM) transcription factors can de-differentiate adult cells in vivo. While sustained OKSM expression triggers tumorigenesis through uncontrolled proliferation of toti- and pluripotent cells, transient reprogramming induces pluripotency-like features and proliferation only temporarily, without teratomas. We sought to transiently reprogram cells within mouse skeletal muscle with a localized injection of plasmid DNA encoding OKSM (pOKSM), and we hypothesized that the generation of proliferative intermediates would enhance tissue regeneration after injury. Intramuscular pOKSM administration rapidly upregulated pluripotency (Nanog, Ecat1, and Rex1) and early myogenesis genes (Pax3) in the healthy gastrocnemius of various strains. Mononucleated cells expressing such markers appeared in clusters among myofibers, proliferated only transiently, and did not lead to dysplasia or tumorigenesis for at least 120 days. Nanog was also upregulated in the gastrocnemius when pOKSM was administered 7 days after surgically sectioning its medial head. Enhanced tissue regeneration after reprogramming was manifested by the accelerated appearance of centronucleated myofibers and reduced fibrosis. These results suggest that transient in vivo reprogramming could develop into a novel strategy toward the acceleration of tissue regeneration after injury, based on the induction of transiently proliferative, pluripotent-like cells in situ. Further research to achieve clinically meaningful functional regeneration is warranted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)59-75
Number of pages17
JournalMolecular Therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2 2019


  • OKSM
  • in vivo reprogramming
  • muscle
  • plasmid DNA
  • pluripotency
  • regeneration

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Pharmacology
  • Drug Discovery


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