Artificial Muscles Promise to Speed up Testing of Treatments for Muscle Diseases

Source: University of College London

Summary: According to a new study, researchers have found that artificial muscles grown from human stem cells could pave the way forward for treating muscle diseases.

The artificial muscles accurately model severe genetic muscle diseases, which will allow scientists to test different types of therapies on human cells that embody the characteristics of the patients. This discovery is expected to lead to more personalized treatment options. Researchers from the University of College London have found that 3-D artificial muscles can be generated from both healthy and diseased stem cells of patients with different types of severe muscle disorders called muscular dystrophies. Artificial muscles grown from human stem cells could pave the way forward for treating muscle diseases. The work shows that they can make patient-specific mini-muscles in the lab and those artificial muscles show distinctive features of some forms of severe muscle diseases. The study findings were published in the journal Cell reports.

Muscle disorders

Credit: University of College London

The artificial muscles were grown from human cells from patients with different forms of muscular dystrophy, including Duchenne, limb-girdle, and congenital muscular dystrophies. Patients’ skin cells were turned into human induced pluripotent stem cells, which have the advantage of being grown indefinitely in the laboratory and then induced to generate not only muscle cells, but also other important cells present in muscle such as blood vessel cells and motor neuron cells. The work follows another recent study published in Nature Communications showing that artificial muscles can be grown from human pluripotent stem cells. The current study builds on that knowledge and shows that artificial muscles grown from pluripotent stem cells of patients with muscular dystrophy can model those severe disorders and can be made to contain up to four distinct cell types from the very same donor.

Dr. Francesco Saverio Tedesco said, “Our findings are expected to facilitate development of therapies for incurable forms of muscular dystrophy by providing a novel way to test treatments in a personalised fashion and on multiple cell types at the same time. They could also help in developing artificial muscles for tissue replacement.”

More Information: Sara Martina Maffioletti et al, “Three-Dimensional Human iPSC-Derived Artificial Skeletal Muscles Model Muscular Dystrophies and Enable Multilineage Tissue Engineering”, Cell Reports (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.celrep.2018.03.091 

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