Research ArticlesBIOMATERIALS

An Acellular Biologic Scaffold Promotes Skeletal Muscle Formation in Mice and Humans with Volumetric Muscle Loss

Science Translational Medicine  30 Apr 2014:
Vol. 6, Issue 234, pp. 234ra58
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3008085

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Cell-Free Matrix Refills Muscle

In traumatic accidents, or even in surgery, large amounts of skeletal muscle can be lost, resulting in pain and loss of function. Although muscle has the ability to regenerate naturally, it cannot refill massive defects, such as those seen in volumetric muscle loss (VML). In response, Sicari and colleagues devised a biomaterial scaffold that can be surgically implanted at the site of VML, encouraging local muscle regeneration and improving function in both mice and humans.

The biomaterial used in this study was made up of bladder tissue that had been stripped of cells, leaving behind only the protein scaffold called the extracellular matrix (ECM). Sicari et al. first tested it in a mouse model of VML. In mice treated with ECM, they saw signs of new skeletal muscle formation, characterized by muscle markers desmin and myosin heavy chain, as well as striated (striped) tissue organization. The new muscle also appeared to be innervated, which is necessary for function. The authors translated this preclinical work into a clinical study of five patients with VML and saw outcomes similar to the mice. Six months after ECM implantation at the site of muscle loss, all patients showed signs of new muscle and blood vessels. Three of the five patients showed 20% or greater improvement in limb strength during physical therapy. The two patients without functional changes did report improvements in nonfunctional tasks, such as balance, as well as an improvement in quality of life. Because of the widespread availability and known safety of cell-free ECM-based materials, the approach described by Sicari et al. may translate to regeneration of other human tissues in addition to muscle.