Reprogramming cells to help treat muscle injury
Dr Federica Masieri
University of Suffolk
Animals to be replaced: mice and rats
Current treatments available for muscle tissue repair, don’t fully restore muscle function and need to be tailored to the extent of a person’s injury, their age and their health. Animals are routinely used in the study of muscle tissue repair, and can involve removing nerves, extracting tissues or injecting toxins into animal muscles, with the animals usually killed after the procedure. Aside from the ethical issue of animal suffering, animal muscle responds to ageing, diseases and injury differently to human muscle. This is slowing progress in understanding muscle tissue repair and in finding improved treatments.
Dr Federica Masieri, at the University of Suffolk, is developing an economical and human relevant model to mimic muscle cell injury or muscle ‘tears’. She’s growing cells in the lab called human induced pluripotent stem cells. These are like blank discs which can be programmed any specialised cell, such as a muscle cell, in under two weeks.
Once these cells have grown and matured, Dr Masieri will mimic muscle tears or injury using special equipment to scratch the muscle cell layer, after which, she can study in detail, how the cells heal. She also plans to use electromagnetic fields to accelerate healing, a technique which has already shown success for bone and joint healing. Dr Masieri’s work could help improve the outlook for those suffering muscle loss from ageing, trauma or degenerative diseases, whilst also replacing animal testing and the use of animal-derived biomaterials.