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A first -- lab creates cells used by brain to control muscle cells
Date:11/22/2011

University of Central Florida researchers, for the first time, have used stem cells to grow neuromuscular junctions between human muscle cells and human spinal cord cells, the key connectors used by the brain to communicate and control muscles in the body.

The success at UCF is a critical step in developing "human-on-a-chip" systems. The systems are models that recreate how organs or a series of organs function in the body. Their use could accelerate medical research and drug testing, potentially delivering life-saving breakthroughs much more quickly than the typical 10-year trajectory most drugs take now to get through animal and patient trials.

"These types of systems have to be developed if you ever want to get to a human-on-a-chip that recreates human function," said James Hickman, a UCF bioengineer who led the breakthrough research. "It's taken many trials over a number of years to get this to occur using human derived stem cells."

Hickman's work, funded through the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) at the National Institutes of Health, is described in the December issue of Biomaterials. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0142961211010556)

Hickman is excited about the future of his research because several federal agencies recently launched an ambitious plan to jump-start research in "human-on-a-chip" models by making available at least $140 million in grant funding.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) are leading the research push.

The goal of the call for action is to produce systems that include various miniature organs connected in realistic ways to simulate human body function. This would make it possible, for instance, to test drugs on human cells well before they
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Contact: Barbara Abney
barb.abney@ucf.edu
407-823-5139
University of Central Florida
Source:Eurekalert  

Page: 1 2

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