Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

A first -- lab creates cells used by brain to control muscle cells

23.11.2011
University of Central Florida researchers, for the first time, 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.

The success at UCF is a critical step in developing "human-on-a-chip" systems. The systems are 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.

"These types of systems have to be developed if you ever want to get to a human-on-a-chip that recreates human function," said James Hickman, a UCF bioengineer who led the breakthrough research. "It's taken many trials over a number of years to get this to occur using human derived stem cells."

Hickman's work, funded through the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) at the National Institutes of Health, is described in the December issue of Biomaterials. (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0142961211010556)

Hickman is excited about the future of his research because several federal agencies recently launched an ambitious plan to jump-start research in "human-on-a-chip" models by making available at least $140 million in grant funding.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), and the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) are leading the research push.

The goal of the call for action is to produce systems that include various miniature organs connected in realistic ways to simulate human body function. This would make it possible, for instance, to test drugs on human cells well before they could safely and ethically be tested on living humans. The technique could potentially be more effective than testing in mice and other animals currently used to screen promising drug candidates and to develop other medical treatments.

Such conventional animal testing is not only slow and expensive, but often leads to failures that might be overcome with better testing options. The limitations of conventional testing options have dramatically slowed the emergence of new drugs, Hickman said.

The successful UCF technique began with a collaborator, Brown University Professor Emeritus Herman Vandenburgh, who collected muscle stem cells via biopsy from adult volunteers. Stem cells are cells that can, under the right conditions, grow into specific forms. They can be found among normal cells in adults, as well as in developing fetuses.

Nadine Guo, a UCF research professor, conducted a series of experiments and found that numerous conditions had to come together just right to make the muscle and spinal cord cells "happy" enough to join and form working junctions. This meant exploring different concentrations of cells and various timescales, among other parameters, before hitting on the right conditions.

"Right now we rely a lot on animal systems for medical research but this is a pure human system," Guo said. "This work proved that, biologically, this is workable."

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 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.

UCF Stands For Opportunity --The University of Central Florida is a metropolitan research university that ranks as the second largest in the nation with more than 58,000 students. UCF's first classes were offered in 1968. The university offers impressive academic and research environments that power the region's economic development. UCF's culture of opportunity is driven by our diversity, Orlando environment, history of entrepreneurship and our youth, relevance and energy. For more information visit http://news.ucf.edu

Barbara Abney | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.ucf.edu

More articles from Life Sciences:

nachricht Scientists enlist engineered protein to battle the MERS virus
22.05.2017 | University of Toronto

nachricht Insight into enzyme's 3-D structure could cut biofuel costs
19.05.2017 | DOE/Los Alamos National Laboratory

All articles from Life Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Wafer-thin Magnetic Materials Developed for Future Quantum Technologies

Two-dimensional magnetic structures are regarded as a promising material for new types of data storage, since the magnetic properties of individual molecular building blocks can be investigated and modified. For the first time, researchers have now produced a wafer-thin ferrimagnet, in which molecules with different magnetic centers arrange themselves on a gold surface to form a checkerboard pattern. Scientists at the Swiss Nanoscience Institute at the University of Basel and the Paul Scherrer Institute published their findings in the journal Nature Communications.

Ferrimagnets are composed of two centers which are magnetized at different strengths and point in opposing directions. Two-dimensional, quasi-flat ferrimagnets...

Im Focus: World's thinnest hologram paves path to new 3-D world

Nano-hologram paves way for integration of 3-D holography into everyday electronics

An Australian-Chinese research team has created the world's thinnest hologram, paving the way towards the integration of 3D holography into everyday...

Im Focus: Using graphene to create quantum bits

In the race to produce a quantum computer, a number of projects are seeking a way to create quantum bits -- or qubits -- that are stable, meaning they are not much affected by changes in their environment. This normally needs highly nonlinear non-dissipative elements capable of functioning at very low temperatures.

In pursuit of this goal, researchers at EPFL's Laboratory of Photonics and Quantum Measurements LPQM (STI/SB), have investigated a nonlinear graphene-based...

Im Focus: Bacteria harness the lotus effect to protect themselves

Biofilms: Researchers find the causes of water-repelling properties

Dental plaque and the viscous brown slime in drainpipes are two familiar examples of bacterial biofilms. Removing such bacterial depositions from surfaces is...

Im Focus: Hydrogen Bonds Directly Detected for the First Time

For the first time, scientists have succeeded in studying the strength of hydrogen bonds in a single molecule using an atomic force microscope. Researchers from the University of Basel’s Swiss Nanoscience Institute network have reported the results in the journal Science Advances.

Hydrogen is the most common element in the universe and is an integral part of almost all organic compounds. Molecules and sections of macromolecules are...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Dortmund MST Conference presents Individualized Healthcare Solutions with micro and nanotechnology

22.05.2017 | Event News

Innovation 4.0: Shaping a humane fourth industrial revolution

17.05.2017 | Event News

Media accreditation opens for historic year at European Health Forum Gastein

16.05.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

New approach to revolutionize the production of molecular hydrogen

22.05.2017 | Materials Sciences

Scientists enlist engineered protein to battle the MERS virus

22.05.2017 | Life Sciences

Experts explain origins of topographic relief on Earth, Mars and Titan

22.05.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>