Electrical stimulation affects the deposition of extracellular matrices and cellular differentiation. Type I collagen is one of the most abundant extracellular matrix proteins; however, not much is known about the effects of electrical stimulation on collagen type I deposition in C2C12 cells. Thus, we studied the effects of electrical voltage and stimulation frequency in 3D cultured C2C12 muscle cells in terms of metabolic activity, type I collagen deposition and cell morphology. Electrically excitable C2C12 muscle cells were seeded in collagen scaffolds and stimulated with rectangular signals of voltage (2, 5, 7 V) and frequency (1, 2 Hz), using parallel carbon electrodes spaced 1 cm apart. Metabolic activity was quantified by the glucose:lactate concentration ratio in the medium. Apoptotic activity was assessed by TUNEL staining and changes in collagen deposition were identified by immunohistology. The ultrastructure of the tissue was examined by TEM. Glucose and lactate analysis indicated that all groups had similar metabolic activity. TUNEL stain showed no significant difference in apoptotic damage induced by electrical stimulation compared to the control. Samples stimulated at 2 Hz exhibited reduced collagen deposition compared to the control and 1 Hz stimulated samples. Muscle-protein marker desmin was highly expressed in constructs stimulated with 1 Hz/5 V sample. TEM revealed that the stimulated samples developed highly organized sarcomeres, which coincided with improved contractile properties in the 1 Hz/5 V- and 2 Hz/5 V-stimulated groups. Our data implicate that a specific electrical frequency may modulate type I collagen accumulation and a specific voltage may affect the differentiation of muscle sarcomeres in excitable cells.
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