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A team of researchers from University of Central Florida (UCF)’s NanoScience Technology Center have developed the world’s first lab-monitored process to examine muscle function and its response to various treatments. This breakthrough may prove invaluable in furthering research efforts aimed at developing effective treatments for some progressive muscular diseases, such as Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis and Myasthenia Gravis.

The research, scheduled to be released today, is featured in the inaugural issue of Technology, a “high-impact-striving” trade journal designed specifically for the greater community of applied researchers, scientists and engineers worldwide. According to its website, Technology will feature the development of cutting-edge new technologies in a broad array of emerging fields of science and engineering.

According to James J. Hickman, Ph.D., professor of chemistry, biomolecular science and electrical engineering at the University of Central Florida, and the senior author of the work, this breakthrough could help speed up the long, arduous pharmaceutical development process.

“This technology, while exciting in itself, is part of a larger goal aimed to better mimic conditions in the body,” Hickman said. “The pharmaceutical industry is in desperate need of highly predictive pre-clinical screening systems to streamline the drug development process and shorten current validation protocols, which can take a decade to implement.”

The work builds upon other notable discoveries and breakthroughs by Hickman-led research teams. Earlier in the year, his team developed a method which uses non-embryonic stem cells to explore treatment options for spinal cord injuries and diseases such as multiple sclerosis. In 2011, Hickman’s team developed a process which uses stem cells to grow neuromuscular junctions (key connectors used by the brain to control muscles) between human muscle cells and human spinal cord cells. Recently, development of the first derivation of sensory neurons was published in Biomaterials and featured in Neural Cell News 7.11, March 20, 2013.

Additional co-authors of the Technology paper include Alec Smith, Ph.D., Chris Long, Ph.D., and Kristen Pirozzi, B.S. This work was supported by National Institutes of Health grants R01NS050452 and R01EB009429.

Originally posted by UCF Today.