These stripy cells look exactly like healthy skeletal muscle. But rather than being grown in the body from scratch, they’ve been created in the lab from adult human cells that have been turned back into stem cells then coaxed into a new career as muscle fibres. The process starts with induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, which are made by treating skin or blood cells with special ‘reprogramming’ factors. These cells are given a dose of a muscle-making molecule called Pax7, and grown in a special frame to create long fibres. These lab-grown muscles can respond to electrical impulses just like real muscles in the body, and still work when transplanted into mice. This is the first time that researchers have managed to grow functional human muscles from iPS cells. The technique could be used to develop and test treatments for rare muscle-wasting diseases, or even grow new muscles for transplants.
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