Nenad Bursac and a team of Bioengineers at Duke University have made a breakthrough after years of work by creating functioning muscle from scratch. His team have previously grown muscle from muscle-derived cells in 2015 – but with an end goal of being able to treat people with muscular disorders (such as muscular dystrophy) they needed to find an alternative starting point.
“In a lot of people with rare, congenital diseases, their muscles are already damaged so you don’t want to biopsy on top of that and cause further damage. The ideal scenario is to take a skin, blood or urine sample, use that to generate stem cells, and use that to generate functional muscles.” Bursac says.
Bursac and his team were able to transform pluripotent stem cells derived from human skin into functioning human muscle by genetically programming them to express large quantities of protein and reprogram the stem cells to become a myogenic progenitor cells.
Bursac and his team then load the progenitor cells onto a scaffold of fibrin gel to aid their transformation into muscle fibre.
University of Washington Geneticist Jeffrey Chamberlin is working to develop gene and cell therapies for treating muscular dystrophies and found the findings encouraging:
“Having a mature muscle culture system like this could make it a lot easier to study muscles and study therapies” says Chamberlin, who was not affiliated with the study.
Bursac and his team are confident that this breakthrough will allow himself and others to use the muscle to design new disease models and one day lead to regenerative therapies.