Three-dimensional skeletal muscle organ-like structures (organoids) formed in tissue culture by fusion of proliferating myoblasts into parallel networks of long, unbranched myofibers provide an in vivo-like model for examining the effects of growth factors, tension, and space flight on muscle cell growth and metabolism. To determine the feasibility of maintaining either avian or mammalian muscle organoids in a commercial perfusion bioreactor system, we measured metabolism, protein turnover. and autocrine/paracrine growth factor release rates. Medium glucose was metabolized at a constant rate in both low-serum- and serum-free media for up to 30 d. Total organoid noncollagenous protein and DNA content decreased approximately 22-28% (P < 0.05) over a 13-d period. Total protein synthesis rates could be determined accurately in the bioreactors for up to 30 h and total protein degradation rates could be measured for up to 3 wk. Special fixation and storage conditions necessary for space flight studies were validated as part of the studies. For example, the anabolic autocrine/paracrine skeletal muscle growth factors prostaglandin F2alpha (PGF2alpha) and insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) could be measured accurately in collected media fractions, even after storage at 37 degrees C for up to 10 d. In contrast, creatine kinase activity (a marker of cell damage) in collected media fractions was unreliable. These results provide initial benchmarks for long-term ex vivo studies of tissue-engineered skeletal muscle.
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