Neural cell integration accelerates bioprinted muscle cell regeneration

Scientists from the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM; NC, USA) have reportedly improved upon a 3D bioprinting technique to better integrate neural cells into bioengineered skeletal muscle tissue.

Traditional approaches to treating extensive muscle defects are typically very difficult, often requiring reconstructive surgery and muscle grafts, whereby the integration of nerves can be incredibly challenging.

The team hopes that this is a crucial step towards the possibility of using bioengineered skeletal muscle tissues for treating patients, emphasizing the application of this technique in the treatment of soldiers following extensive muscle defect injuries having encountered IEDs during active duty.

“Being able to bioengineer implantable skeletal muscle constructs that mimics the native muscle to restore function represents a significant advance in treating these types of injuries,” explained Ji Hyun Kim (WFIRM). “Our hope is to develop a therapeutic option that will help heal injured patients and give them back as much function and normalcy as possible.”

Previously, the team has demonstrated that the Integrated Tissue and Organ Printing System (ITOP) can generate organized 3D-printed muscle tissue, robust enough to maintain its structure.

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More recently, the team have taken this research one step further, developing and testing different types of skeletal muscle tissue constructs to find the right combination of cells and materials to achieve functional muscle tissue.

Published in Nature Communications, the team have now investigated the integration of neural cells into bioprinted skeletal muscle tissue in order to accelerate functional muscle regeneration.

“These constructs were able to facilitate rapid nerve distribution and matured into organized muscle tissue that restored normal muscle weight and function in a pre-clinical model of muscle defect injury,” added Sang Jin Lee (WFIRM).

Funded by the Armed Forces Institute of Regenerative Medicine, the wider aim of the project is to investigate clinical therapies for use on wounded soldiers that will also benefit therapies for civilian populations.

“Continued improvements in 3D bioprinting techniques and materials are helping us advance in our quest to make replacement tissue for patients,” Anthony Atala, Director of WFIRM, concluded.

Sources: Kim JH, Kim I, Seol YJ, Ko IK, Yoo JJ, Atala A, Lee SJ. Neural cell integration into 3D bioprinted skeletal muscle constructs accelerates restoration of muscle function. Nat. Comms. 11, 1025 (2020);

Lead image: WFIRM 3D bioprinter prints muscle. Credit: Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine (WFIRM), available via:

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