Artificial Muscles Could Help Advance Research on Muscular Dystrophy
One of the main problems with muscular dystrophy is that scientists cannot examine the patient's muscles up-close to see how the disorder really works, without being invasive. However, this could all change soon. With new developments in artificial muscle technology and tissue engineering, researchers might be able to create to their own artificial muscles, and model them to resemble those of the patients suffering from muscular dystrophy. Researchers will be able to study these structures up close and personal, and hopefully be able to run tests and experiments without any invasive test or clinical trial.
This new discovery was reported by scientists from the University College London, and published in the journal Cell Reports. They claim that muscles grown from human stem cells could be the missing link to further research on genetic muscular diseases, including muscular dystrophy. These artificially-grown muscles pose no ethical dilemmas since they can be regrown from both healthy and diseased stem cell samples taken from subjects with different types of muscular disorders. Since they are taken from subjects that already suffer from some form of muscular dystrophy, the artificial muscles will also grow to replicate the exact same disease patterns, giving researchers a chance to interact directly with the disorder.
Muscular dystrophy is a term used to refer to a group of diseases that causes the patient’s muscles to progressively deteriorate. The causes of these diseases are unknown, but they are found to be genetic. Muscular dystrophy is usually passed down from the parents, and could be triggered by other factors in a child. Muscular dystrophy affects mostly children and adolescents and lasts throughout the entirety of their lives. Additionally, the most serious cases of muscular dystrophy can significantly shorten the patient’s life expectancy, as it can spread and weaken their heart and lung muscles, causing life-threatening conditions.
The most common type of muscular dystrophy, Duchenne muscular dystrophy, is approximately 50% of all cases of the disorder. However, the disease is still considered rare, affecting 1 patient out of every 5,000 births. It usually manifests at around the age of 4 and is determined to be X-linked recessive, which means that it is transmitted by a parent that carries the disease, but doesn’t suffer from the symptoms.
There is currently no cure for muscular dystrophy. But this doesn't mean scientists aren't working towards it. Also, researchers have been able to slow down the effects of the disease, improving patients quality of life.
Read on to learn how artificial muscles can help research in muscular dystrophy.