Feeling groovy: Neurons integrate better with muscle grown on grooved platforms

As shown in this artist’s rendering, grooved surfaces help muscle grow into aligned fibers, which provides a track for neurons to follow. Image by Janet Sinn-Hanlon

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Growing muscle tissue on grooved platforms helps neurons more effectively integrate with the muscle, a requirement for engineering muscle in the lab that responds and functions like muscle in the body, University of Illinois researchers found in a new study.

Such engineered muscle with integrated nerves has applications in reconstructive and rehabilitative medicine, as well as for engineered biological machines or robots.

“With this approach, we can engineer muscle outside of the body so it can respond like muscle in the body,” said study leader Hyunjoon Kong, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. “Usually people just culture muscle cells without neurons. It’s quite straightforward to do that. But it’s very difficult for neurons to integrate and communicate with the muscle so that it’s functional and responsive.”

Kong co-led the study with Rashid Bashir, a professor of bioengineeringand dean of the College of Engineering. Bashir and Kong also are affiliated with the Carle Illinois College of Medicine.

Illinois researchers found that when muscle fibers are grown on grooved surfaces, nerves integrate with them more efficiently. From left: College of Engineering Dean Rashid Bashir; graduate students Clare Ko and Gelson Pagan-Diaz; professors Marni Boppart and Hyunjoon Kong.
Photo by L. Brian Stauffer
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Feeling groovy: Neurons integrate better with muscle grown on grooved platforms
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Feeling groovy: Neurons integrate better with muscle grown on grooved platforms
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Growing muscle tissue on grooved platforms helps neurons more effectively integrate with the muscle, a requirement for engineering muscle in the lab that responds and functions like muscle in the body, University of Illinois researchers found in a new study.