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MIT Engineers Develop Tool To Explore Exercise’s Mechanical Impact On Cells

Exercise provides numerous benefits to our bodies, notably strengthening and toning muscles. However, the precise mechanisms behind how exercise accomplishes this have intrigued scientists. MIT engineers have devised an innovative approach to unravel this mystery using a special mat embedded with tiny magnetic particles within a hydrogel material.*


*Resembling a yoga mat, this hydrogel mat allows scientists to examine the microscopic effects of exercise on muscle cells. By placing an external magnet beneath the mat, the embedded particles begin to oscillate, simulating the vibrations our muscles experience during physical activity.*


*The researchers cultivated a layer of muscle cells on the gel’s surface and set the magnet in motion, “exercising” the cells through magnetic vibrations. The outcomes revealed that consistent mechanical motion resulted in muscle fibers growing in unison, aligning in the same direction. This discovery carries promising implications for creating robust, functional muscles for soft robots and repairing damaged tissues.*


*Ritu Raman, an MIT engineer, sees potential applications for guiding muscle regrowth after injury or mitigating the effects of aging. The study used genetically engineered muscle cells responsive to blue light, avoiding the use of electrical pulses, to assess cell behavior. The aligned fibers responded to blue light cohesively, whereas the control group exhibited random contractions.*


*Referred to as “MagMA” (magnetic matrix actuation), this innovative gel promises a noninvasive method for shaping muscle fibers and comprehending their responses to exercise. Mrs. Raman plans to expand the study to investigate how various cell types respond to regular exercise.*


*Supported by the US National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense Army Research Office, this research offers intriguing insights into muscle growth and regenerative possibilities.*


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