A research team comprising of researchers from Italy, Israel and the United Kingdom has been successful in generating mature and functional skeletal muscle (Tibialis anterior muscle in the leg) from engineered cells in a dish. The subsequent graft was then implanted close to a normal, contracting skeletal muscle in mice, where the new muscle was nurtured and grown. Over a period this method could allow for patient-specific treatments for a large number of muscle disorders.
The researchers used muscle precursor cells, mesoangioblasts, grown in the presence of a hydrogel (support matrix) in a tissue culture dish. After the graft was implanted onto the surface of the skeletal muscle underneath the skin of the mouse, mature muscle fibers formed a complete and functional muscle within several weeks. They also found that replacing a damaged muscle with the graft also resulted in a functional artificial muscle very similar to a normal Tibialis anterior.
Cesare Gargioli of the University of Rome, one of the lead authors of the study, said, "The morphology and the structural organization of the artificial organ were extremely similar to if not indistinguishable from a natural skeletal muscle. In future, irreversibly damaged muscles could be restored by implanting the patient's own cells within the hydrogel matrix on top of a residual muscle, adjacent to the damaged area."
The results appear in EMBO Molecular Medicine.