First Person is a series of interviews with the first authors of a selection of papers published in Journal of Cell Science, helping researchers promote themselves alongside their papers. Samuele Metti is co-first author on ‘ Native collagen VI delays early muscle stem cell differentiation’, published in JCS. Samuele conducted the research described in this article while a PhD student in Prof. Paolo Bonaldo's lab at University of Padova, Italy. He is now a postdoc in the lab of Prof. Gisou van der Goot at School of Life Science, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, investigating how extracellular matrix proteins affect muscle stem cell behaviour.

Samuele Metti

How would you explain the main findings of your paper in lay terms?

Muscle stem cells (MuSCs) represent the major stem cell population in skeletal muscle. Following muscle injury, MuSCs exit from quiescence and start to proliferate, producing new myoblasts that then fuse with one another and to the pre-existing muscle fibres to regenerate the damaged tissue. MuSCs reside in an extremely specialized locale called the MuSC niche. The extracellular matrix (ECM) is a key component of the MuSC niche, providing a unique mechanical and biochemical environment crucial for maintaining MuSCs in a quiescent state. Among the ECM proteins thus far identified as playing a role at the MuSC niche, collagen VI is a key factor. In a previous study, we have shown that collagen VI is crucial for maintaining the biomechanical properties of the niche by regulating muscle stiffness. In this paper, we highlight a predominantly biochemical function of collagen VI, independent from tissue stiffness, in counteracting the differentiation of myogenic precursor cells. This discovery deepens our comprehension of collagen VI biology in skeletal muscle, concurrently laying the foundation for groundbreaking insights into of membrane receptors involved in its extra-to-intracellular signal transduction. Targeting this aspect of collagen VI function, which is relatively unexplored, carries the potential for development of innovative therapeutic approaches for individuals affected by collagen VI-related myopathies.

Were there any specific challenges associated with this project? If so, how did you overcome them?

In scientific research, every project inevitably presents challenges and unforeseen outcomes. The primary hurdle I faced in this particular study involved establishing the in vitro experimental setup. Isolating and maintaining primary muscle stem cells in culture, as with all stem cells, is a complex task demanding special care. However, I successfully overcame these difficulties and accomplished the task in the end!

Why did you choose Journal of Cell Science for your paper?

It was not a difficult choice. We selected Journal of Cell Science because it publishes high-quality science related to the extracellular matrix, collagen VI and muscle stem cells. Moreover, previous experiences have highlighted a smooth and highly constructive peer review process.

Muscle stem cell in its niche. Muscle stem cell (green), collagen VI (red) and nucleus (blue).

Muscle stem cell in its niche. Muscle stem cell (green), collagen VI (red) and nucleus (blue).

What motivated you to pursue a career in science, and what have been the most interesting moments on the path that led you to where you are now?

Engaging in scientific research is the most beautiful job in the world. The opportunity to witness something no one has ever seen before is what drives me daily, especially during challenging moments when experiments don't give the expected results. My interest in science dates back to my school days, but it was during my Master's degree internship that my passion for skeletal muscle physiology ignited. This interest deepened significantly throughout my PhD, conducted in Prof. Paolo Bonaldo's lab, and it is fueled every day by the experiments I carry out, engaging in discussions with colleagues and collaborators and exploring relevant literature.

What's next for you?

Currently, I am undertaking my first postdoctoral experience in the laboratory of Gisou van der Goot at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland, where I am further exploring the role of ECM turnover in skeletal muscle and muscle stem cells. Moving forward, my strong motivation is to pursue a career in academia, where I can contribute to cutting-edge research and education in the neuromuscular field. Furthermore, the scientific freedom inherent in the university environment aligns perfectly with my aspirations and pursuit of independence.

Tell us something interesting about yourself that wouldn't be on your CV

I love ‘experimenting’ with cooking; even more, I love tasting the dishes I prepare.

Samuele Metti’s contact details: School of Life Science, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, Switzerland.


Da Ros
Native collagen VI delays early muscle stem cell differentiation
J. Cell Sci.