Research on the neuromuscular junction (NMJ) and its function and development spans over a century. However, researchers are limited in their ability to conduct experimentation on this highly specialized synapse between motor neurons and muscle fibers, as NMJs are not easily accessible outside the body. The aim of this work is to provide a reliable and reproducible muscle sheet model for in vitro NMJ study. A novel culture system was designed by engineering a method for the directional growth of myofiber sheets, using muscle progenitor cells cultured on electrospun fiber networks. Myoblastic C2C12 cells cultured on suspended aligned fibers were found to maintain directionality, with alignment angle standard deviations approximately two-thirds lower on fibers than on regular culture surfaces. Morphological studies found nuclei and cytoskeleton aspect ratios to be elongated by 20 and 150%, respectively. Furthermore, neurons were shown to form innervation patterns parallel to suspended fibers when co-cultured on developed muscle sheets, with alignment angle standard deviations three times lower compared with those on typical surfaces. The effect of agrin on samples was quantified through the slow release of agrin medium, encapsulated in alginate pellets and imbedded within culture chambers. Samples exposed to agrin showed significantly increased percentage of AChR-covered area. The developed model has potential to serve as the basis for synaptogenesis and NMJ studies, providing a novel approach to bio-artificial muscle alignment and setting the groundwork for further investigations in innervation. © 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Biomed Mater Res Part A: 106A: 1165-1176, 2018.

Original publication

DOI

10.1002/jbm.a.36312

Type

Journal article

Journal

J Biomed Mater Res A

Publication Date

05/2018

Volume

106

Pages

1165 - 1176

Keywords

aligned scaffold, electrospinning, innervation, muscle sheet, neuromuscular junction