Engineered cells provide platform for research into muscle disorders

Researchers have for the first time engineered functional skeletal muscle cells from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs).

The new muscle cells respond like native muscle to electrical and chemical stimulation making them useful in physiological and pharmacological studies.

As reported in Nature Communications, the Duke University research first involved creating induced myogenic progenitor cells (iMPCs) from undifferentiated hPSCs.

Within two weeks in differentiation medium, the iMPCs differentiated into ‘spontaneously contracting, multinucleated myotubes’ and a pool of satellite cells.

When implanted into a 3D matrix, cells from the monolayer culture were able to structurally re-organise into functional skeletal muscle tissue (iSKM bundles) ‘that can generate twitch and tetanic contractions and Ca2+ transients in response to electrical and neurotransmitter stimulation’.

The isKM bundles maintained their functionality after implantation into experimental animals although the forces they generated were lower than those of native muscle. The researchers also observed host vascularisation of the implanted muscle bundles.

“Due to their unlimited self-renewal capacity and potential to differentiate into any cell type, hPSCs represent a promising source for the generation of skeletal muscle cells for disease modeling, drug screening, and cell therapy,” the researchers said.

They added that chronic electrical and mechanical stimulation was likely to further promote structural and functional maturation of the iSKM bundles.

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