New magneto-active scaffolds as 3D model to study skeletal muscle

Researchers from the labs of reNEW Leiden PI Niels Geijsen (LUMC) and Miguel Castilho (TU/e) have developed printed scaffolds of magnetized microfibers to study skeletal muscle tissue in 3D. The new scaffolds enable mechanical stimulation of highly organized skeletal muscle cells in vitro for the first time. The platform, published in Small, offers new possibilities to model skeletal muscle development and disorders.

Skeletal muscles in our body are essential for posture and movements. However, in the case of genetic Muscular Dystrophies (MD) such as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) or Fascioscapulohumeral Dystrophy (FSHD) these functions are rapidly lost. Currently, no cures for these diseases are available and the options to study MD in vitro and in vivo are limited. In particular, current in vitro models of MD lack the ability to generate mechanical stimulation themselves. As a result, the muscle cells in these models are often immature and lack spatial organization.

The researchers now produced scaffolds of magnetized microfibers to generate new, suitable 3D in vitro models of skeletal muscle. Ouafa Dahri, a PhD student in the lab of Niels Geijsen, explains: “The scaffolds are very precise networks of magnetic microfibers. To make these, we blended magnetic particles with standard printing material and used this mixture for highly precise 3D printing with a technique called melt electrowriting.”

The team then used the new scaffolds as a fundament to seed skeletal muscle cells and form skeletal muscle constructs. Dahri continues: “We were excited to see that our magnetoactive scaffolds did not affect the viability of the skeletal muscle cells. As a proof-of-concept we then used magneto-mechanical stimulation to apply dynamic bending of the skeletal muscle constructs”. The study is thereby the first to show dynamic mechanical stimulation of highly organized skeletal muscle cells in vitro. reNEW Leiden PI Niels Geijsen concludes: “The platform allows us to create different shapes and forms of muscle, mimicking specific muscle groups. It thereby opens possibilities both to get a better understanding on how mechanical stimulation affects differentiation and maturation of the muscle cells, as well as to model muscular dystrophies.”

Read the full paper here: 3D Printed Magneto‐Active Microfiber Scaffolds for Remote Stimulation and Guided Organization of 3D In Vitro Skeletal Muscle Models – Cedillo‐Servin – Small – Wiley Online Library

reNEW Leiden PI Niels Geijsen uses stem cell-based models to study skeletal muscle formation, homeostasis, regeneration and disorders. Read more about his work here.

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