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Effects of chronic electrical stimulation on contractile properties of long-term denervated rat skeletal muscle.

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  • Research Article


1. The contractile properties of fast-twitch (extensor digitorum longus or EDL) and slow-twitch (soleus) muscles in the rat were followed for periods of between 4 and 10 months after denervation. The effects of chronic electrical stimulation during the last 3-8 weeks of denervation were investigated. 2. The fall in tetanic tension that follows axotomy ended after about 4 months' denervation. The equilibrium tension was about 0.75% of control tension in EDL and 0.2-0.3% in soleus. 3. The low tension in soleus was due partly to the small diameter of the muscle fibres (atrophy) and partly to their necrosis that resulted in an 8-fold fall in specific tension (the force per unit cross-sectional area). Similar but less extreme changes occurred in EDL. 4. It is speculated that the final level of tension reached by unstimulated denervated muscles is an equilibrium between decrease in force due to atrophy and necrosis and increase due to regeneration. Differences between the final tension levels in soleus and EDL cannot be accounted for quantitatively by known differences in atrophy alone. Therefore, the rate of necrosis in soleus and of regeneration in EDL may be higher. 5. Chronic stimulation of long-term denervated muscle increased force generation by about 7-fold in EDL and between 20 and 55 times in soleus. The final tension reached was between 4 and 5% of normal in both muscles. Specific tension of fibres was almost completely restored by stimulation and the number of fibres was normal. The failure to recover full tension was largely due to failure to reverse denervation atrophy completely. 6. Twitch contraction and relaxation times were identical in denervated-stimulated soleus and EDL. There was no evidence for dependence on duration of stimulation or tension of the muscle. The normalized maximum rate of rise of tetanic tension remained higher in EDL than soleus.

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