Bioengineered 3D Skeletal Muscle Model Reveals Complement 4b as a Cell-Autonomous Mechanism of Impaired Regeneration with Aging

Extracellular Vesicles

A mechanistic understanding of cell-autonomous skeletal muscle changes after injuries can lead to novel interventions to improve functional recovery in an aged population. However, major gaps in our understanding persist owing to limitations of commonly used biological aging models. Two-dimensional cell culture represents an artificial environment, while aging mammalian models are contaminated by influences from non-muscle cells and other organs. We created a three-dimensional muscle aging system to overcome the limitations of these traditional platforms. Here, we first show that old muscle constructs (OMC) manifest a sarcopenic phenotype, as evidenced by hypotrophic myotubes, reduced contractile function, and decreased regenerative capacity compared to young muscle constructs (YMC). OMC also phenocopy the regenerative responses of aged muscle to two interventions, pharmacological and biological. Next, interrogation of muscle cell-specific mechanisms that contribute to impaired regeneration over time reveals that an aging-induced increase of complement component 4b (C4b) delays muscle progenitor cell amplification and impairs functional recovery. However, administration of complement factor I, a C4b inactivator, improves muscle regeneration in vitro and in vivo, indicating C4b inhibition may be a novel approach to enhance aged muscle repair. Collectively, our model exhibits capabilities to study cell-autonomous changes in skeletal muscle during aging, regeneration, and intervention.

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