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Body rebuilding: Researchers regenerate muscle in mice
Date:11/29/2011

of injury to rebuild the muscle. With major injuries, however, the body's first priority is to stop the bleeding, so scar tissue forms quickly at the wound site and overrides any muscle repair.

In the current study, the WPI/CellThera team combined two novel technologies to try to prevent scar formation and prompt muscle re-growth. The first was a method they had developed previously for reprogramming mature human skin cells without employing viruses or extra genes (Cloning, Stem Cells. 2009 Jul 21). The reprogrammed cells express stem cell genes and multiply in great numbers, but don't differentiate into specific tissues. The second was the use of biopolymer microthreads as a scaffold to support the cells. Developed by George Pins, associate professor of biomedical engineering at WPI, the threads--about the thickness of a human hair--are made of fibrin, a protein that helps blood clot.

Researchers removed a portion of the tibialis anterior leg muscle in several mice (the muscle was chosen because injury to it affects the foot's range of motion but doesn't prevent the mice from walking). In some mice, the injuries were left to heal on their own. In others, the wound was filled with bundles of microthreads seeded with reprogrammed human muscle cells. The untreated mice developed significant scarring at the injury site, with no restoration of muscle function. In sharp contrast, the mice that received the reprogrammed cells grew new muscle fibers and developed very little scarring.

Tests done 10 weeks after implantation showed that the regenerated tibialis anterior muscle functioned with nearly as much strength as an uninjured muscle. The scientists expected that most of the regenerated muscle would be composed of human cells, since the implanted cells were from human muscle. Surprisingly, most of the new muscle fibers were made of mouse cells. The team theorized that the fibrin microthreads, which in their composition and shape are similar to
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Contact: Michael Cohen
mcohen@wpi.edu
508-868-4778
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Source:Eurekalert  

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