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Lab Grows Neuromuscular Connections Vital for Brain-Muscle Communication

Posted Dec 18 2011 10:11pm
Posted on 2011-12-16 06:00:00 in Musculoskeletal | Neurology | Stem Cell |

University of Central Florida (Florida, USA) researchers have used stem cells to grow neuromuscular junctions between human muscle cells and human spinal cord cells, the key connectors used by the brain to communicate and control muscles in the body.  This success is considered to be a critical step in developing "human-on-a-chip" systems – models that recreate how organs or a series of organs function in the body. Their use could accelerate medical research and drug testing, potentially delivering life-saving breakthroughs much more quickly than the typical 10-year trajectory most drugs take now to get through animal and patient trials. Besides being a key requirement for any complete human-on-a-chip model, such nerve-muscle junctions might themselves prove important research tools. These junctions play key roles in Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease, in spinal cord injury, and in other debilitating or life threatening conditions. With further development, the University of Central Florida team’s techniques could be used to test new drugs or other treatments for these conditions even before more expansive chip-based models are developed.

Xiufang Guo, Mercedes Gonzalez, Maria Stancescu, Herman H. Vandenburgh, James J. Hickman.  “Neuromuscular junction formation between human stem cell-derived motoneurons and human skeletal muscle in a defined system.”  Biomaterials, Volume 32, Issue 36, December 2011, Pages 9602-9611.

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