A team of biomedical engineers at Duke University has finally demonstrated that the human muscle has a native ability to eliminate the damaging effects of chronic inflammation when exercised. The finding was possible because of laboratory-grown and engineered human muscle, showing this type of platform’s potential power in such research attempts.
The results of the study have been described in a paper published in the journal Science Advances.
The Muscle’s Reaction to Inflammation
Nenad Bursac, a professor of biomedical engineering at Duke University, explained: “Lots of processes are taking place throughout the human body during exercise, and it is difficult to tease apart which systems and cells are doing what inside an active person. Our engineered muscle platform is modular, meaning we can mix and match various types of cells and tissue components if we want to. But in this case, we discovered that the muscle cells were capable of taking anti-inflammatory actions all on their own.”
Overall, inflammation is not natively good or bad. When the body gets injured, a low-level inflammation reaction warns off the debris and helps the tissue rebuild. Other times, the immune system exaggerates and develops an inflammatory response that triggers damage. Besides, some conditions lead to chronic inflammation, including sarcopenia and rheumatoid arthritis, which can make the muscle waste away and weaken its capacity to contract.
Muscles and Cells
Among the molecules that can trigger inflammation, one pro-inflammatory one, particularly interferon gamma, has been linked to different kinds of muscle wasting and dysfunction. Although earlier research has demonstrated that exercise can help address the impacts of inflammation in general, it has been challenging to distinguish what role the muscle cells might play and how they engage with particular offending molecules, including interferon gamma.
To prove that the muscle is able to block interferon gamma’s damaging capabilities, the researchers turned to an engineered muscle platform that the lab has been developing for around a decade. In the current research, the scientists took the fully functional, lab-grown muscles and flooded them with relatively high interferon gamma levels for seven days to emulate the impacts of a long-lasting chronic inflammation. As they expected, the muscle got smaller and lost a good portion of its strength.
Exercising Fights Chronic Inflammation
“When exercising, the muscle cells themselves were directly opposing the pro-inflammatory signal induced by interferon gamma, which we did not expect to happen,” explained Bursac.
These results demonstrate how critical similar studies might be in finding out new techniques of disease and potential treatments. There are numerous notions currently that ideal levels and regimes of exercise could cure chronic inflammation while not overworking the cells.