In their efforts to study the functions of human body, scientists have frequently resorted to using cells from animals such as mice. But despite the research advances made with animal tissue, it is not a perfect surrogate for human cells. In the case of skeletal muscle, for example, little analysis has been done with human muscle cells, despite the importance of this research in aiding patients with dysfunctional skeletal musculature.
Stanford University researchers have recently announced the fabrication of synthetic human skeletal muscle suitable for studies conducted in vitro. The tissue, which is made from an engineered protein biomaterial, encourages the formation of mature muscle cells from the orderly arrangement of primary myoblasts. The scientists can readily modify properties such as the length and width of these cells for the purposes of testing the possible range of results.
In the future, the researchers anticipate complete tissue engineering outside the human body, resulting in living, functioning muscle cells that exhibit the ranges of differentiation and maturation found in actual anatomical tissue. This material could be used to replace old or diseased tissue in ailing patients, for example, representing a breakthrough in regenerative medicine.