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Tissue Eng Part C Methods. 2010 Dec;16(6):1347-55. doi: 10.1089/ten.TEC.2010.0040. Epub 2010 May 11.

Neuromuscular junction formation between human stem-cell-derived motoneurons and rat skeletal muscle in a defined system.

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NanoScience Technology Center, University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida, USA.


To date, the coculture of motoneurons (MNs) and skeletal muscle in a defined in vitro system has only been described in one study and that was between rat MNs and rat skeletal muscle. No in vitro studies have demonstrated human MN to rat muscle synapse formation, although numerous studies have attempted to implant human stem cells into rat models to determine if they could be of therapeutic use in disease or spinal injury models, although with little evidence of neuromuscular junction (NMJ) formation. In this report, MNs differentiated from human spinal cord stem cells, together with rat skeletal myotubes, were used to build a coculture system to demonstrate that NMJ formation between human MNs and rat skeletal muscles is possible. The culture was characterized by morphology, immunocytochemistry, and electrophysiology, while NMJ formation was demonstrated by immunocytochemistry and videography. This defined system provides a highly controlled reproducible model for studying the formation, regulation, maintenance, and repair of NMJs. The in vitro coculture system developed here will be an important model system to study NMJ development, the physiological and functional mechanism of synaptic transmission, and NMJ- or synapse-related disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, as well as for drug screening and therapy design.

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