Scientists have been able to grow a working human muscle from stem cells.
Biomedical engineers from Duke University in Carolina explained how previous attempts to grow a skeletal muscle proved fruitful in 2015 and how the researchers managed to build on existing data.
They used adult skin or blood cells which were rendered into a juvenile, flexible state. These stem cells which are called “induced pluripotent cells” (ISPCs) are naturally occurring products found in embryos. They are so versatile that they can become any type of human cell.
As part of the study, researchers tinkered with the ISPCs to become skeletal muscle cells, which later grew into a functioning muscle.
“It’s taken years of trial and error, making educated guesses and taking baby steps to finally produce functioning human muscle for pluripotent stem cells,” said Lingjun Rao, a co-author of the study.
Scientists were able to grow the muscle by using a special 3-D scaffold that allowed the cells to grow at a faster and longer rate. According to the study, the resulting product reacted to external stimuli including electrical pulses.
To test the muscle further, the team implanted it into adult mice, where it functioned for three weeks, however, it lost some of its qualities during that time.
The breakthrough will no doubt aid studies focusing on degenerative muscular diseases. Scientists also hope the discovery will be a valuable subject on which to test drugs and gene treatments for said diseases.
Nenad Bursak, the biological engineer that first made the find in 2015, stresses the importance of the new muscle growing technique. Researchers can perform biopsies on lab-grown muscles instead of further damaging the muscles of people with congenital diseases.
Details of the discovery have been published in the journal, Nature Communications.
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