Donating Muscle for Science!!

Every time my collaborator presents our joint research in skeletal and cardiac tissue engineering, he shows a clip of a muscle biopsy to show the audience how he obtains patient samples. As part of a collective that studies muscular dystrophy, he processes these muscle samples in multiple ways: a simple stain to observe native tissue structure, genetic analysis to investigate potential causes for disease states, and de-differentiation to create a stem cell line.

On our end, we use these stem cell lines to develop skeletal and cardiac tissues for other types of studies to test function. Since I have been so closely linked with these experiments and collaborations, I have always been interested to experience donating muscle myself. When the opportunity presented itself at the end of last semester, I quickly signed on!

Even though I knew that there would be minimal pain and no lasting damage or side effects, I was still pretty nervous the morning of the procedure. My collaborator was in the room to process the samples immediately, so it was comforting to have some familiar faces around.

3 samples the width of a straw and the length of an inch were taken from my thigh and from my calf. During the biopsy, there wasn’t that much pain, but I would describe it as deeply uncomfortable. The locations were numbed of course, but you can still feel the pressure of the punch and the muscles reacting with a spasm.

Two weeks have passed now, and I’m practically back to normal! There are two little scabs that I keep covered with a water-proof bandage, but otherwise, I’ve back to walking and working out regularly. This was such a unique experience! I’m so happy to have gone through this to advance our understanding of muscle and the differences between healthy controls and patient tissues.

Published on February 7th, 2019

Last updated on February 7th, 2019