Stem Cells Used to Grow New, Functioning Human Muscles

Stem Cells Used to Grow New, Functioning Human Muscles

Stem cell treatments are an especially innovative technique in the research, treatment, and understanding of diseases and injuries. And while we’re already studying the use of stem cells for a variety of conditions to do things like stimulate healing and regeneration of degenerated, painful, or inflamed tissues, researchers are continually discovering groundbreaking new capabilities of these important cells.

Case in point: Recent achievements at Duke University, where biomedical engineers have managed to create a functioning human skeletal muscle using pluripotent stem cells (cells, generally taken from fat, skin or blood, that can be modified to form any other type of tissue or body cell). Researchers led by Lingjun Rao, PhD, took stem cells from adult non-muscle tissues, “erased” them to create undefined cells, and then fed them copious amounts of Pax7, a molecule known to stimulate stem cells into forming muscle.

The lab-created muscle functions similarly to natural muscle tissue, and reacts to stimuli such as electric shock and chemicals that closely mimic neuronal signals. When implanted into adult mice, the new muscle not only survived and functioned, but it also integrated into native tissue.

“These progenitor cells resemble adult muscle stem cells called ‘satellite cells’ that can theoretically grow an entire muscle starting from a single cell,” said Nenad Bursac, PhD, head of the Duke lab where the research was performed, in a press release. It’s a development that has taken years, and one that, as it gets perfected, holds immense promise for treating muscle damage and understanding disease.

The physicians of the Illinois Pain Institute are affiliated with The Regenerative Stem Cell Institute, the leading institute for the advancement and accessibility of regenerative stem cell therapies in the Chicago area. For more information or to schedule an appointment, contact us today.