Engineering Muscle Implants

Laboratory-engineered skeletal muscle is a potential therapy for replacing diseased or damaged muscle tissue. The Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM) has developed a computer-controlled system to build properly organized muscle implants in the lab.

Research Significance

Being able to engineer muscle in the laboratory would offer a significant advance to surgeons and their patients for reconstructive procedures.

Research Approach and Goals

To engineer skeletal muscle, muscle cells are attached to strands of collagen, or connective tissue. They are then subjected to cyclic stretching ("exercise") in a bioreactor, which is a system designed to simulate the conditions of the human body. The pre-conditioning allows the cells to align in one direction, and fuse to form muscle bundles. Once implanted, the implants have been shown to promote the repair of muscle damage and to build new muscle tissue.

Research Highlights and Innovation

This innovative research is a critical step towards improving the well-being of injured military as well as civilians. In this video, the process of engineering muscle is exaggerated for demonstration purposes. The process is actually much slower and involves less intense stretching.

Engineering Muscle

Watch muscle being engineered in the lab.