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Using natural materials to grow muscles in a lab

It's the latest step in tissue regeneration, which uses natural materials, not synthetic ones. The process can help in car accidents, sports injuries, cancer & war.

HOUSTON — From destroyed muscles to torn-up tissues, every year, 4.5 million people undergo reconstructive surgeries. Although surgeons can help repair the problem, many times, the damaged area will never get back to 100 percent. But now, researchers are working in the lab to grow new muscles and give these patients new hope.

Car accidents, sports injuries, cancer, war – many times, surgeries to reconstruct new tissue helps the look, but Katie Hogan, PhD candidate and bioengineer at Rice University says it's not very effective because they don't recover the additional function of that muscle.

Now, Rice University bioengineers are creating scaffolds made from decellularized skeletal muscle.

“Our goal, here, is to not just create new tissue, but to create new functional tissue,” Hogan explains.

It’s the latest step in true tissue regeneration — using natural materials — not synthetic ones. Researchers start with muscle taken from a rabbit and break it down into proteins to create the matrix of nanofibers. Scientists can grow it as large, or as small, as needed.

Hogan further explains, “We would be able to implant this mesh directly because it already has the proteins and biochemical cues that we would find in muscle. It should, ideally, recruit cells from your body to help come in and fill that gap and to form new muscle fibers.”

In rats, it took just eight weeks for researchers to see substantial new muscle fiber formation, and once enough muscle is formed, the scaffold will degrade and be replaced by new muscle. Researchers say using natural materials is important because natural materials will help the tissue become more functional.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Shelby Kluver at shelby.kluver@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

   

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