Human muscle biopsies are increasingly important for diagnosis, research, and to monitor therapeutic trials. We examined the use of a self-contained, vacuum-assisted
biopsy system and a novel muscle freezing technique to improve, simplify, and standardize human muscle biopsy collection and cryopreservation in older adults.
The VACORA vacuum-assisted biopsy system was deployed in muscle biopsies of 12 individuals ranging in age from 57 to 80 years. This office-based approach was
well tolerated as it is minimally invasive, uses only local anesthetic, and has a quick recovery. To maximize biopsy sample quality and reproducibility, we developed a
novel muscle sample freezing protocol. Fresh muscle biopsy samples were placed into readily available tissue cassettes followed by direct freezing in liquid nitrogen. After
this modified snap freezing protocol, frozen muscle samples were enrobed in embedding medium for cryosectioning. We examined the effect of this freezing approach in
histological sections of rodent and human muscle samples.
The VACORA Biopsy System provided as many as four skeletal muscle core samples from a single biopsy site. Biopsy samples from 12 older adults weighed an average
of 147.5 ± 11 mg each and had a consistent size and shape. There were no complications, and the residual scar is less than 10 mm. The freezing method using standard
tissue cassettes with direct freezing in liquid nitrogen yielded high quality cryopreserved muscle tissue suitable for histological analysis without the need for isopentane and
with little to no freeze-thaw damage.
These enhancements have streamlined and improved the consistency of our muscle biopsy protocol and provide sufficient high-quality sample for multi-dimensional
downstream studies of human muscle in aging and disease.