CRN Projects

Nanofiber-enhanced Delivery of Stem Cells for Muscle Repair

Principal Investigator:
Samuel I. Stupp

There is no effective treatment for a number of degenerative muscle conditions and diseases. For example, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD) is a devastating X-linked muscle wasting disease affecting about one in 3,600 boys. The disease affects striated muscles of the limbs, diaphragm, and heart and is associated with a progressive loss of muscle usually leading to death by the early 20’s.

Recent work from Helen Blau's research group at Stanford University has shown that transplanted muscle stem cells (MuSCs) can heal degenerated muscle tissue. However, in patients suffering from DMD, stem cell function is also impaired. Although MuSCs are a very low percentage of the entire population of cells residing in muscle tissue, they play a key role in the growth, healing, and homeostasis maintenance of striated muscle tissue. Harnessing the potential of MuSCs is challenging because only a small number can be harvested and most of those are lost when transplanted back into the tissue.

Postdoctoral fellow Eduard Sleep (left) and PhD candidate Mark McClendon create tiny “noodles” for this Catalyst Project; both researchers are members of the Stupp group.The Stupp group hypothesizes that developing a delivery method using self-assembling peptide amphiphiles will enhance the transplantation of MuSCs and promote increased muscle repair. A fine-tuned niche is essential for directing stem cell function and fate. By encapsulating the MuSCs within a nanofiber scaffold the Stupp researchers hope to precisely control the cells’ localization, density, and growth factor exposure from the nanofibers, ultimately contributing to their proliferation and differentiation behavior. Moreover, the Stupp lab has developed an injection strategy that creates micro-channels of aligned nanofibers within the muscle tissue containing the encapsulated cells. This delivery method can promote the formation of muscular fibers that are aligned to the endogenous fibers.

This CRN Catalyst Award helped launch the Stupp-Blau interdisciplinary, collaboration to generate improved therapies for muscle repair.

Principal Investigator

Samuel I. Stupp

Materials Science & Engineering, McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science
Chemistry, Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences
Medicine, Feinberg School of Medicine

CRN catalyzes new research in regenerative medicine using nanotechnology strategies.