Still frames from a bioengineered heart muscle
contracting, the tissue moves in a clockwise direction in the culture
Inside Dr. Louis Terracios laboratory, a tiny experimental
heart muscle bobs around a culture dish, throbbing much like a human
created the muscle by taking heart muscle cells from rats and fusing
them with collagen from cowhides. Heart muscle cells continue
beating even when theyre removed from animals, he explains.
When we put them in the culture dish, the cells form interconnections,
and in a couple of weeks, they begin beating in unison and mimicking
the action of a heart.
muscle could eventually be used to patch damaged heart ventricles,
and a pacemaker could be attached to the muscle to spur the hearts
contraction. The muscle could also be implanted in children born
with missing heart muscle because of congenital heart disease.
and his postdoctoral research associate, Tom Yan, are also developing
skeletal muscle that could be implanted in patients with oral, head,
and neck cancer. Often, these patients have their salivary glands
removed or lose the muscles controlling their facial expressions.
In many cases, large portions of the face are removed, leaving the
patient disfigured. While faces can be cosmetically reconstructed,
the muscles that control movement cannot be restored. To solve this
problem, Dr. Terracio is creating bioengineered muscle in his laboratory
that could be used to replace lost muscle needed for chewing and
for facial expression.
While the muscles
in Dr. Terracios laboratory are still small, he hopes to grow
them large enough to be able to handle the human bodys intense
workload. Initially, the muscles will be strengthened in a laboratory
stretch device. Once theyve grown robust, they will be transplanted
to an animal, where Dr. Terracio hopes to connect them to the blood
supply and then to the nervous system.
comes naturally for Dr. Terracio, who spent years studying how muscle
develops. At NYUCD, Im combining my basic science experience
with my knowledge of tissue engineering. This is part of our effort
to produce research that can eventually be evaluated in clinical
of creating muscle strong enough for the human body is a painstaking
one. For now, all eyes are on Dr. Terracios laboratory, where
the tiny muscle beats on and on in its little culture dish. But
in time, Dr. Terracio hopes its pulse will become a familiar rhythm
in peoples lives.
To view a video
of the beating heart created in Dr. Terracios laboratory, go