Biophysical stimulation for engineering functional skeletal muscle

Sarah M. Somers, Alexander A. Spector, Douglas J. Digirolamo, Warren L. Grayson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Tissue engineering is a promising therapeutic strategy to regenerate skeletal muscle. However, ex vivo cultivation methods typically result in a low differentiation efficiency of stem cells as well as grafts that resemble the native tissues morphologically, but lack contractile function. The application of biomimetic tensile strain provides a potent stimulus for enhancing myogenic differentiation and engineering functional skeletal muscle grafts. We reviewed integrin-dependent mechanisms that potentially link mechanotransduction pathways to the upregulation of myogenic genes. Yet, gaps in our understanding make it challenging to use these pathways to theoretically determine optimal ex vivo strain regimens. A multitude of strain protocols have been applied to in vitro cultures for the cultivation of myogenic progenitors (adipose- and bone marrow-derived stem cells and satellite cells) and transformed murine myoblasts, C2C12s. Strain regimens are characterized by orientation, amplitude, and time-dependent factors (effective frequency, duration, and the rest period between successive strain cycles). Analysis of published data has identified possible minimum/maximum values for these parameters and suggests that uniaxial strains may be more potent than biaxial strains, possibly because they more closely mimic physiologic strain profiles. The application of these biophysical stimuli for engineering 3D skeletal muscle grafts is nontrivial and typically requires custom-designed bioreactors used in combination with biomaterial scaffolds. Consideration of the physical properties of these scaffolds is critical for effective transmission of the applied strains to encapsulated cells. Taken together, these studies demonstrate that biomimetic tensile strain generally results in improved myogenic outcomes in myogenic progenitors and differentiated myoblasts. However, for 3D systems, the optimization of the strain regimen may require the entire system including cells, biomaterials, and bioreactor, to be considered in tandem.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)362-372
Number of pages11
JournalTissue Engineering - Part B: Reviews
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2017


  • biophysical cues
  • bioreactors
  • mechanotransduction
  • skeletal muscle
  • tensile strain

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Bioengineering
  • Biomaterials
  • Biochemistry
  • Biomedical Engineering


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