Insect Muscle Culture

Dorsal Vesicle

Caterpillar Dorsal Vesicle (arrows) is visible through the cuticle

Insect muscle culture for use in bioengineering* is a reality built on decades of research into basic insect phsyiology and biochemistry. Insect cell culture has a long history with examples that guide new culture methods. While heart muscle from insects can be surgically removed and grown in culture, embryonic cells are more malleable and have greater potential than cells derived from muscle tissue. The process is relatively simple but finding the proper conditions for success is difficult.

Manduca begins development shortly after fertilization. It is desirable to isolate myoblasts, cells that have differentiated to become muscle cells, but have not yet differentiated into muscle. Timing is critical and knowledge of development an important guide. At the proper time, embryo cells can be obtained from eggs by homogenization, separation from the yolk and plating the isolated cells on tissue culture medium in a petri dish. The myoblasts adhere to the media on the plate better than other cell types. Myoblasts will migrate from the original cell masses and fuse. Under proper hormonal conditions, they contract spontaneously in 5 days. Growth can be promoted or suppressed using combinations of 20 hydroxyecysone and juvenile hormone analogs. Cell cultures can be preserved by freezing and stimulated to grow when thawed. Development of basic cell culture methods is an important step in the final goal of producing a biologically derived tissue that is useful to bioengieering applications.

*Isolation and Maintenance-Free Culture of Contractile Myotubes from Manduca sexta Embryos. Baryshyan AL, Woods W, Trimmer BA, Kaplan DL. 2012. PLoS ONE 7(2): e31598.
doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031598

About jjneal

Jonathan Neal is an Associate Professor of Entomology at Purdue University and author of the textbook, Living With Insects (2010). This blog is a forum to communicate about the intersection of insects with people and policy. This is a personal blog. The opinions and materials posted here are those of the author and are in no way connected with those of my employer.
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