This article is not about exchanging flabby underarms for toned muscled ones. It’s about a scientist’s research into making muscle cells from skin cells. Biological engineer from Duke University, Nenad Bursac, has been trying to make muscles from “scratch” for purposes of finding cures for muscular disorders. At first he could only enable a glob of muscle cells to multiply. However not many volunteers are willing to give away muscle cells nor would you want to use them from someone with muscle problems. Skin cells are much more available.
So Bursac and his team sought and found a way to transform skin cells into functioning human muscle.
They can derive pluripotent stem cells from skin cells i.e. ones able to morph into any kind of cell in the body including muscle cells. What surprises me is that this is evidently the hard part. I would have thought it more difficult to collect these cells and make them function as a muscle. Muscles need to be able to contract and release.
The researchers use a gel made of fibrin, stuff that helps your blood clot as a cylindrical scaffold, which gives the cells a surface on which to align and complete their transformation into unified bundles of muscle fiber.
To verify that the fibers could function not just in culture but in live tissue, Bursac’s team transplanted their muscle bundles into adult mice. Then amazingly implanted small, glass windows in the mice’s backs to watch the tissues not only survive but integrate with the rodent’s natural muscles. The vision of this amuses me. Evidently, the mice didn’t mind.
Bursac hypothesizes these skin-grown muscles will be capable of self-repair after exercise or injury.
Their discovery method will make it easier than ever for researchers to study muscle and muscle-based therapies, Stem cells capable of becoming any kind of cell are amazing enough. Now we can make such cells from ordinary skin. Mind blowing!