Deok-Ho Kim, assistant professor of bioengineering at the University of Washington in Seattle, was awarded an MDA research grant totaling $390,000 over a period of three years to develop better techniques for growing muscle for use in transplantation into a mouse model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD).
Muscle is a highly ordered tissue, with cells oriented in specific directions. Blood vessels and other muscle components must also take up specific positions in muscle for it to perform properly. Kim’s work is focused on developing materials that serve as scaffolds for growing muscle from stem cells in the laboratory, which then can be transplanted into living organisms to replace damaged muscle. These scaffolds work at the cellular scale to promote optimal growth of muscle in the most tissuelike patterns.
“This work aims to generate a functional muscle patch capable of providing long-term muscle strength and regenerative capacity, and to improve morbidity [symptoms] in DMD patients,” Kim says. “The optimal conditions will be utilized to create a robust muscle replacement with adequate force generation capacity. Since DMD is essentially a disease of deficiency of mature muscle cells, stem cell therapy presents an attractive route to cure the disease.”
His group also is working to integrate a muscle signaling molecule, calledS1P, into the growing muscle, to promote muscle stem cell proliferation and differentiation, and to help blood vessels grow properly in the muscle.
Funding for this MDA grant began Feb. 1, 2013.