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Structure and functional evaluation of tendon-skeletal muscle constructs engineered in vitro

Tissue Engineering


During muscle contraction, the integrity of the myotendinous junction (MTJ) is important for the transmission of force from muscle to tendon. We evaluated the contractile and structural characteristics of 3-dimensional (3-D) skeletal muscle constructs co-cultured with engineered self-organized tendon constructs (n=4), or segments of adult (n=4) or fetal (n=5) rat- tail tendon. We hypothesized that the co-culture of tendon and muscle would produce constructs with viable muscle-tendon interfaces that remain intact during generation of force. Construct diameter (mu m) and maximum isometric force (mu N) were measured, and specific force (kPa) was determined. After measure of force, constructs were loaded at a constant strain rate until failure and surface strains were recorded optically across the tendon, the muscle and the interface and used to determine the tangent modulus ( passive stiffness) of the construct. Frozen samples were used for Trichrome Masson staining and immunofluorescent analysis of the MTJ-specific protein paxillin. No differences were observed between the groups with respect to diameter, maximum force, or specific force. The MTJ was robust and withstood tensile loading beyond the physiological strain range. The majority of the constructs failed in the muscle region. At the MTJ, there is an increase in the expression and localization of paxillin. In conclusion, using 3 sources of tendon tissue, we successfully engineered 3-D muscle-tendon constructs with functionally viable MTJ, characterized by structural features and protein expression patterns resembling neonatal MTJs in vivo.


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