Scientists at Duke University recently announced that they have successfully bioengineered a human muscle that expands and contracts just like the real thing. Scientists see vast opportunities for this new advancement. It could become a powerful tool for studying diseases like muscular dystrophy. Not only could it help understand these diseases, but the engineered muscle could help scientists develop drugs to treat these diseases without the need to test on human beings. Dr. Grace Pavlath, senior vice-president and scientific program director for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, says that the discovery will most benefit from testing cures to diseases without the risk of human life.
To create the muscle, the scientists extracted special muscle “precursor” cells from human bodies and then multiplied then up to 1,000 times. Then they mixed the cells with a special gel and placed it in a 3d mold, which stimulated the growth of this muscle. When they stimulated the muscle with electric shocks and a number of different drugs, the scientists were delighted to find that the muscle reacted just like human tissue would, contracting and expanding as the impulses hit the muscle. This breakthrough holds large implications for improving research and testing of cures to many muscular diseases.