New muscle, complete with blood vessels, has been grown from scratch in the laboratory and implanted into a living mouse.
The muscle was grown by seeding a sponge-like, three-dimensional plastic scaffold with myoblasts and endothelial cells, precursors to skeletal muscle and blood vessel cells respectively.
Connective tissue cells called fibroblasts provided a crucial third ingredient.
“The idea is that this hopefully will be used to repair or replace damaged muscle tissue when needed,” says lead researcher Shulamit Levenberg of the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology.
A muscle biopsy could in the near future provide the seed cells for growing a person’s own engineered replacement muscle, says Levenberg.
The key to the technique’s success is the growth of tissue with its own blood supply. Engineered tissue has typically been implanted into the body without blood vessels, as the body itself grows and provides them.
“Although this approach has been useful in many tissues, it has not been as successful in thick, highly vascularized tissues such as the muscle,” says Levenberg.