Oh what the future holds. A world where sickness can be healed, where organs, tissue and muscle can be grown and implanted. It’s not as far off as you might think. Scientists have grown working muscle fibers and were then able to successfully implant them into mice. What’s more, the muscles care regenerative, which is a significant step in tissue engineering.
“It’s the first time engineered muscle has been created that contracts as strongly as native neonatal [newborn] skeletal muscle,” Duke researcher Nenad Bursac told the BBC.
To make the muscles as responsive and strong as the real thing, they created little gaps in the fibers where muscle stem cells could grow. This also allowed them to heal themselves, as Alan Boyle explained at NBC News: “When a natural-born muscle is injured, the satellite cells are activated to begin the regeneration process. The researchers found that their lab-grown muscles did likewise when they were damaged with a toxin found in snake venom.”
In a separate test, the muscles where inserted onto the backs of living mice, under a glass panel. They were engineered to fluoresce when they contracted, as NBC reported. This allowed researchers to see the flashes grow stronger as the muscles grew.
Growing tissues, specifically muscles in a lab has been one achievement, but successfully implanting them is a real leap forward.