Bioreactor development for skeletal muscle hypertrophy and atrophy by manipulating uniaxial cyclic strain: proof of concept. Academic Article uri icon


  • Skeletal muscles overcome terrestrial, gravitational loading by producing tensile forces that produce movement through joint rotation. Conversely, the microgravity of spaceflight reduces tensile loads in working skeletal muscles, causing an adaptive muscle atrophy. Unfortunately, the design of stable, physiological bioreactors to model skeletal muscle tensile loading during spaceflight experiments remains challenging. Here, we tested a bioreactor that uses initiation and cessation of cyclic, tensile strain to induce hypertrophy and atrophy, respectively, in murine lineage (C2C12) skeletal muscle myotubes. Uniaxial cyclic stretch of myotubes was conducted using a StrexCell (STB-1400) stepper motor system (0.75Hz, 12% strain, 60min day^-1). Myotube groups were assigned as follows: (a) quiescent over 2- or (b) 5-day (no stretch), (c) experienced 2-days (2dHY) or (d) 5-days (5dHY) of cyclic stretch, or (e) 2-days of cyclic stretch followed by a 3-day cessation of stretch (3dAT). Using -sarcoglycan as a sarcolemmal marker, mean myotube diameter increased significantly following 2dAT (51%) and 5dAT (94%) vs. matched controls. The hypertrophic, anabolic markers talin and Akt phosphorylation (Thr308) were elevated with 2dHY but not in 3dAT myotubes. Inflammatory, catabolic markers IL-1, IL6, and NF-kappaB p65 subunit were significantly higher in the 3dAT group vs. all other groups. The ratio of phosphorylated FoxO3a/total FoxO3a was significantly lower in 3dAT than in the 2dHY group, consistent with elevated catabolic signaling during unloading. In summary, we demonstrated proof-of-concept for a spaceflight research bioreactor, using uniaxial cyclic stretch to produce myotube hypertrophy with increased tensile loading, and myotube atrophy with subsequent cessation of stretch.

published proceedings

  • NPJ Microgravity

author list (cited authors)

  • Kamal, K. Y., Othman, M. A., Kim, J., & Lawler, J. M.

complete list of authors

  • Kamal, Khaled Y||Othman, Mariam Atef||Kim, Joo-Hyun||Lawler, John M

publication date

  • June 2024