First contracting human muscle grown in laboratory

Jan 21, 2015

Image Credit: Nenad Bursac, Duke University

By Ken Kingery

In a laboratory first, Duke researchers have grown human skeletal muscle that contracts and responds just like native tissue to external stimuli such as electrical pulses, biochemical signals and pharmaceuticals.

The lab-grown tissue should soon allow researchers to test new drugs and study diseases in functioning  outside of the .

The study was led by Nenad Bursac, associate professor of biomedical engineering at Duke University, and Lauran Madden, a postdoctoral researcher in Bursac’s laboratory. It appears January 13 in the open-access journal eLife

“The beauty of this work is that it can serve as a test bed for clinical trials in a dish,” said Bursac. “We are working to test drugs’ efficacy and safety without jeopardizing a patient’s health and also to reproduce the functional and  of diseases—especially rare ones and those that make taking  difficult.”

Bursac and Madden started with a small sample of human cells that had already progressed beyond stem cells but hadn’t yet become . They expanded these “myogenic precursors” by more than a 1000-fold, and then put them into a supportive, 3D scaffolding filled with a nourishing gel that allowed them to form aligned and functioning .


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