03 August 2015

Muscles grown in a Petri dish

A large group of bioengineers from France and the USA managed to grow real muscle tissue cells from human stem cells in the laboratory for the first time, Infox reports.

The authors report on their achievement in the latest issue of the prestigious scientific journal Nature Biotechnology (Chal et al., Differentiation of pluripotent stem cells to muscle fiber to model Duchenne muscular dystrophy).

In the experiment, the scientists used pluripotent human stem cells, turning them with the help of special transcription factors into muscle tissue cells, which then grouped into a tiny muscle one millimeter long. It could contract in response to electrical stimuli, just like a normal muscle. Moreover, surprisingly, the muscle tissue cells obtained in this way could divide themselves.

Lab–grown muscles (green – muscle fibers, blue - cell nuclei)

As scientists say, the muscles obtained in this way can serve as an excellent model for studying various diseases associated with the degradation of muscle tissue, with their help, new drugs can be developed and tested.

"We have done a lot of difficult work: we wanted to find out all the stages that stem cells go through in a human embryo in order to turn into muscle tissue cells. We had to repeat this path in a Petri dish already in the laboratory. We analyzed all stages of development and found out which transcription factors work on each of them. And then they created cell lines that began to glow green when they entered the next stage of development. So, step by step, we recreated all the stages and eventually grew real muscle tissue cells," says one of the authors of the study, Dr. Oliver Pourquie from Harvard University Medical School (in a press release Potential treatment for muscular dystrophy – VM).

The scientists also managed to grow muscle cells from embryonic cells of mice with Duchenne muscular dystrophy syndrome (a disease that occurs in humans and is characterized by muscle weakness). According to the authors, these cells can also serve as a good model for studying not only this disease, but also diseases associated with age-related degeneration of skeletal muscles, such as sarcopenia and other diseases associated with muscle weakness.

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