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Muscling In

Simulations from high resolution muscle scans reveal mesh-like connections between fibres

27 August 2020

Muscling In

Cut through a bungee cord and you’ll see many elastic strands bundled together, flexing to give strength to the overall rope. Muscle is often described in a similar way – a bundle of parallel tube-like myofibrils stretching independently but at the same time, to contract or relax the muscle. Yet these simulations tell a slightly different story, based on scans of mouse muscles with an advanced scanning electron microscope. Instead of being entirely separate, stretchy regions called sarcomeres (measured between the vertical black bands) often form branches between neighbouring myofibrils – connected regions are highlighted in different colours. While this occurs to different degrees in cardiac muscle (top) compared to skeletal muscle (bottom), it suggests that mice muscles, and ours, may behave more like muscular meshes than bungee cords, raising new questions for how these structures are affected by age and disease.

Written by John Ankers

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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