Editors' ChoiceRegenerative Medicine

Use the force

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Science Translational Medicine  10 Feb 2016:
Vol. 8, Issue 325, pp. 325ec25
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.aaf2012

Traumatic injury to skeletal muscle typically results in fibrosis, scarring, and loss of function. In principle, skeletal muscles are capable of regenerating completely and do so after minor injuries. Nevertheless, for severe injuries, existing treatments, such as surgical reconstruction, often lead to patient morbidity. Tissue engineering approaches based on implanting drugs, scaffolds, or cells have also had mixed success. An intriguing alternative, described in a recent article by Cezar et al., is inspired by massaging or mechanical loading of the injury site, which shows some clinical efficacy even in the absence of biologics. The authors implanted a composite polymeric hydrogel with magnetic nanoparticles at the site of muscle injury in a mouse model of myotoxin-induced damage and hind limb ischemia. In response to magnetic fields, this remotely controlled biomaterial applied cyclic mechanical compression to the damaged tissue. This mechanical stimulation resulted in enhanced regeneration of muscle structure and function as well as reduced inflammation and fibrous capsule formation relative to controls animals either unstimulated or with a pressure cuff that acted outside the skin.

A pressurized biomaterial represents a new tool for tissue engineering, complementing existing approaches that deliver biologics or other drugs locally. Other than a mechanical benefit to the damaged tissue, this biocompatible biomaterial also drives fluid flows through the tissue, which could enhance molecular transport. Moving on, it may be possible to enhance regeneration in other muscle tissues, including the heart and visceral muscle.

C. A. Cezar et al., Biologic-free mechanically induced muscle regeneration. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 10.1073/pnas.1517517113 (2016). [Abstract]

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