muscle stem cells

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Working Human Skeletal Muscles Grown In Lab For First Time

Bioengineers at Duke University reported today that they have made the first lab-grown human skeletal muscle tissue that contracts and relaxes with electrical and chemical stimulation.

“The beauty of this work is that it can serve as a test bed for clinical trials in a dish,” said Nenad Bursac, an associate professor of biomedical engineering who led the study. “We are working to test drugs’ efficacy and safety without jeopardizing a patient’s health and also to reproduce the functional and biochemical signals of diseases—especially rare ones and those that make taking muscle biopsies difficult.” 

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Vascular smooth muscle cells

Our hearts pump some 50 million gallons of blood in our lifetime, and our arteries take a beating because of it. Arteries have the critical task of withstanding the high blood pressure that comes with each heart stroke. To do this, arteries are lined with thick vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) that contract and relax to control blood pressure and secrete proteins to cushion against each and every heartbeat. In this image, human embryonic stem cells have been transformed into VSMCs as shown by smooth muscle-specific markers in red and green. Creating VSMCs will be useful to study vascular abnormalities found in several diseases, including muscular dystrophy.

Image by Leslie Caron.