Ah, the marvel of muscle! Your skeletal muscle tissue allows you to move, smile, and breathe. When you want to move, your brain sends signals via motor neurons to the neuromuscular junction where a burst of acetylcholine is released. This in turn actives a cascade of calcium within each skeletal muscle fiber invoking tiny molecular motors to crawl along cords of actin protein and produce a coordinated contraction of your muscle. As if this weren’t enough, when skeletal muscle is injured, muscle stem cells residing in the tissue are called to action to restore muscle form and function.
As we age, our ability to regenerate skeletal muscle declines and the tissue becomes weak. Loss of skeletal muscle mass and function also occurs as a result of certain genetic conditions, inactivity and diseases like cancer. The goal of our research is to restore muscle function in these diverse disease settings by harnessing the potential of muscle stem cells. To do this, we employ tools and materials developed by our engineering colleagues to better understand how the body controls muscle stem cells, as well as to engineer replacement skeletal muscle tissue.