Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Muscle spindle


Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a devastating genetic muscular disorder of childhood marked by progressive debilitating muscle weakness and wasting, and ultimately death in the second or third decade of life. Wnt7a signaling through its receptor Fzd7 accelerates and augments regeneration by stimulating satellite stem cell expansion through the planar cell polarity pathway, as well as myofiber hypertrophy through the AKT/mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) anabolic pathway. We investigated the therapeutic potential of the secreted factor Wnt7a for focal treatment of dystrophic DMD muscles using the mdx mouse model, and found that Wnt7a treatment efficiently induced satellite cell expansion and myofiber hypertrophy in treated mucles in mdx mice. Importantly, Wnt7a treatment resulted in a significant increase in muscle strength, as determined by generation of specific force. Furthermore, Wnt7a reduced the level of contractile damage, likely by inducing a shift in fiber type toward slow-twitch. Finally, we found that Wnt7a similarly induced myotube hypertrophy and a shift in fiber type toward slow-twitch in human primary myotubes. Taken together, our findings suggest that Wnt7a is a promising candidate for development as an ameliorative treatment for DMD.

Concepts: Energy, Muscle, Cardiac muscle, Electromyography, Muscular system, Muscular dystrophy, Atrophy, Muscle spindle


We utilized an in vitro adult mouse extensor digitorum longus (EDL) nerve-attached preparation to characterize the responses of muscle spindle afferents to ramp-and-hold stretch and sinusoidal vibratory stimuli. Responses were measured at both room (24°C) and muscle body temperature (34°C). Muscle spindle afferent static firing frequencies increased linearly in response to increasing stretch lengths to accurately encode the magnitude of muscle stretch (tested at 2.5%, 5% and 7.5% of resting length [Lo]). Peak firing frequency increased with ramp speeds (20% Lo/sec, 40% Lo/sec, and 60% Lo/sec). As a population, muscle spindle afferents could entrain 1:1 to sinusoidal vibrations throughout the frequency (10-100 Hz) and amplitude ranges tested (5-100 µm). Most units preferentially entrained to vibration frequencies close to their baseline steady-state firing frequencies. Cooling the muscle to 24°C decreased baseline firing frequency and units correspondingly entrained to slower frequency vibrations. The ramp component of stretch generated dynamic firing responses. These responses and related measures of dynamic sensitivity were not able to categorize units as primary (group Ia) or secondary (group II) even when tested with more extreme length changes (10% Lo). We conclude that the population of spindle afferents combines to encode stretch in a smoothly graded manner over the physiological range of lengths and speeds tested. Overall, spindle afferent response properties were comparable to those seen in other species, supporting subsequent use of the mouse genetic model system for studies on spindle function and dysfunction in an isolated muscle-nerve preparation.

Concepts: Wave, Phase, Frequency, Hertz, Wavelength, Extensor digitorum muscle, Muscle spindle, Vibration


BACKGROUND: Laminin-alpha2-deficient congenital muscular dystrophy (MDC1A) is a severe muscle-wasting disease for which no curative treatment is available. Antagonists of the angiotensin II receptor type 1 (AT1), including the anti-hypertensive drug losartan, have been shown to block also the profibrotic action of transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta and thereby ameliorate disease progression in mouse models of Marfan syndrome. Because fibrosis and failure of muscle regeneration are the main reasons for the severe disease course of MDC1A, we tested whether L-158809, an analog derivative of losartan, could ameliorate the dystrophy in dyW/dyW mice, the best-characterized model of MDC1A. METHODS: L-158809 was given in food to dyW/dyW mice at the age of 3 weeks, and the mice were analyzed at the age of 6 to 7 weeks. We examined the effect of L-158809 on muscle histology and on muscle regeneration after injury as well as the locomotor activity and muscle strength of the mice. RESULTS: We found that TGF-beta signaling in the muscles of the dyW/dyW mice was strongly increased, and that L-158809 treatment suppressed this signaling. Consequently, L-158809 reduced fibrosis and inflammation in skeletal muscle of dyW/dyW mice, and largely restored muscle regeneration after toxin-induced injury. Mice showed improvement in their locomotor activity and grip strength, and their body weight was significantly increased. CONCLUSION: These data provide evidence that AT1 antagonists ameliorate several hallmarks of MDC1A in dyW/dyW mice, the best-characterized mouse model for this disease. Because AT1 antagonists are well tolerated in humans and widely used in clinical practice, these results suggest that losartan may offer a potential future treatment of patients with MDC1A.

Concepts: Muscle, Muscular system, Angiotensin, Angiotensin II receptor antagonist, Mice, Muscle spindle, Angiotensin receptor, Angiotensin II receptor type 2


The perception of fatigue is common in many disease states, however, the mechanisms of sensory muscle fatigue are not understood. In mice, rats and cats, muscle afferents signal metabolite production in skeletal muscle using a complex of ASIC, P2X and TRPV1 receptors. Endogenous muscle agonists for these receptors are combinations of protons, lactate, and ATP. Here we applied physiological concentrations of these agonists to muscle interstitium in human subjects to determine if this combination could activate sensations, and if so determined how these subjects described these sensations. Ten volunteers received infusions (0.2 ml over 30-s) containing protons, lactate and ATP under the fascia of a thumb muscle, abductor pollicis brevis (APB). Infusion of individual metabolites at maximum amounts evoked no fatigue or pain. Metabolite combinations found in resting muscles (pH 7.4+300nM ATP+1mM lactate) also evoked no sensation. The infusion of a metabolite-combination found in muscle during moderate endurance-exercise (pH 7.3+400nM ATP+5 mM lactate) produced significant fatigue sensations. Infusion of a metabolite-combination associated with vigorous exercise (pH 7.2+500nM ATP+10mM lactate) produced stronger sensations of fatigue and some ache. Higher levels of metabolites (as found with ischemic exercise) caused more ache but no additional fatigue-sensation. Thus, in a dose-dependent manner, intramuscular infusion of combinations of protons, lactate, and ATP leads to fatigue-sensation and eventually pain, probably through activation of ASIC, P2X, and TRPV1 receptors. This is the first demonstration in humans that metabolites normally produced by exercise act in combination to activate sensory neurons that signal sensations of fatigue and muscle pain.

Concepts: Metabolism, Muscle, Sensory system, Muscular system, Acetylcholine, Muscle spindle, Peripheral neuropathy, Adductor pollicis muscle


Proprioceptive inputs from the plantar sole contribute to balance control during normal quiet standing. This study investigated the cooling of plantar sole mechanoreceptors through ice immersion and its effects on balance control and lower leg muscle activity. Ten healthy males participated in this study. Plantar sole sensitivity was tested using the two point discriminatory test and the Semmes-Monofilament test. Plantar sole cooling was achieved through foot immersion in ice water. Balance control was measured using a force platform with seven trials (30s) performed before and after ice water foot immersion. Lower limb balance control muscle activity was measured with electromyography. Ice cooling reduced the plantar sole sensitivity of the foot. A short term alteration in balance control was observed with only the first trial showing significantly greater speed and RMS of the velocity of the centre of pressure in the cooling condition when compared to control trials before cooling. Muscular activity increased following the first trial. The adaptation observed after the short term alteration of balance control, could result from sensory reweighting processes. It is suggested that the muscular activity increase is evidence of sensory reweighting and contributes to the regulation of balance control when the plantar sole sensation is partially inhibited.

Concepts: Foot, Sensory system, Sense, Electromyography, Muscle spindle, Limb, Human leg, Mechanoreceptor


Absence of dystrophin makes skeletal muscle more susceptible to injury, resulting in breaches of the plasma membrane and chronic inflammation in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). Current management by glucocorticoids has unclear molecular benefits and harsh side effects. It is uncertain whether therapies that avoid hormonal stunting of growth and development, and/or immunosuppression, would be more or less beneficial. Here, we discover an oral drug with mechanisms that provide efficacy through anti-inflammatory signaling and membrane-stabilizing pathways, independent of hormonal or immunosuppressive effects. We find VBP15 protects and promotes efficient repair of skeletal muscle cells upon laser injury, in opposition to prednisolone. Potent inhibition of NF-κB is mediated through protein interactions of the glucocorticoid receptor, however VBP15 shows significantly reduced hormonal receptor transcriptional activity. The translation of these drug mechanisms into DMD model mice improves muscle strength, live-imaging and pathology through both preventive and post-onset intervention regimens. These data demonstrate successful improvement of dystrophy independent of hormonal, growth, or immunosuppressive effects, indicating VBP15 merits clinical investigation for DMD and would benefit other chronic inflammatory diseases.

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, Protein, Asthma, Glucocorticoid, Electromyography, Muscular system, Muscle spindle


The protease β-secretase 1 (Bace1) was identified through its critical role in production of amyloid-β peptides (Aβ), the major component of amyloid plaques in Alzheimer’s disease. Bace1 is considered a promising target for the treatment of this pathology, but processes additional substrates, among them Neuregulin-1 (Nrg1). Our biochemical analysis indicates that Bace1 processes the Ig-containing β1 Nrg1 (IgNrg1β1) isoform. We find that a graded reduction in IgNrg1 signal strength in vivo results in increasingly severe deficits in formation and maturation of muscle spindles, a proprioceptive organ critical for muscle coordination. Further, we show that Bace1 is required for formation and maturation of the muscle spindle. Finally, pharmacological inhibition and conditional mutagenesis in adult animals demonstrate that Bace1 and Nrg1 are essential to sustain muscle spindles and to maintain motor coordination. Our results assign to Bace1 a role in the control of coordinated movement through its regulation of muscle spindle physiology, and implicate IgNrg1-dependent processing as a molecular mechanism.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Molecular biology, Motor control, Motor coordination, Beta amyloid, Muscle spindle


Exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD), which is commonly associated with eccentric exercise, unaccustomed exercise, and resistance training, may lead to delayed-onset muscle soreness, swelling, decreased muscle strength, and range of motion. Many researchers have evaluated various interventions to treat the signs and symptoms of EIMD. However, the effects of massage after EIMD are unclear. Here, we investigated the effect of massage on muscle strength and proprioception following EIMD. All subjects randomly were divided into a EIMD-treated control group (n = 10) and an massage-treated after EIMD experimental group (n = 11). EIMD was induced by repeated exercise. Massage treatment was provided by physiotherapist for a 15 min. It consists of light stroking, milking, friction, and skin rolling. Lactate was evaluated by lactate pro analyzer in pre and post exercise. Surface electromyography (muscle activity) and sonography (muscle thickness) were used to confirm the muscular characteristics. Proprioception was investigated by dual inclinometer. As a result, massage treatment on the gastrocnemius after EIMD increased activation of the medial gastrocnemius during contraction (p < 0.05). In the lateral and medial gastrocnemius, the θs which is angle between muscle fibers and superficial aponeurosis showed a significant change (p < 0.05). However, there are no differences in the θd which is angle between muscle fibers and deep aponeurosis. We also found that proprioceptive acuity in the ankle joint was significantly greater in the massage-treated experimental group compared to that in the control group (p < 0.05). These findings suggest that massage of the gastrocnemius after EIMD can improve muscle strength and proprioception by influencing the superficial layer of the gastrocnemius.

Concepts: Muscle, Electromyography, Weight training, Lactic acid, Muscle spindle, Exercise physiology, Stretching, Bodybuilding


Emotions can evoke strong reactions that have profound influences, from gross changes in our internal environment to small fluctuations in facial muscles, and reveal our feelings overtly. Muscles contain proprioceptive afferents, informing us about our movements and regulating motor activities. Their firing reflects changes in muscle length, yet their sensitivity can be modified by the fusimotor system, as found in animals. In humans, the sensitivity of muscle afferents is modulated by cognitive processes, such as attention; however, it is unknown if emotional processes can modulate muscle feedback. Presently, we explored whether muscle afferent sensitivity adapts to the emotional situation. We recorded from single muscle afferents in the leg, using microneurography, and moved the ankle joint of participants, while they listened to evocative classical music to induce sad, neutral, or happy emotions, or sat passively (no music). We further monitored their physiological responses using skin conductance, heart rate, and electromyography measures. We found that muscle afferent firing was modified by the emotional context, especially for sad emotions, where the muscle spindle dynamic response increased. We suggest that this allows us to prime movements, where the emotional state prepares the body for consequent behaviour-appropriate reactions.

Concepts: Psychology, Heart, Muscle, Human anatomy, Emotion, Muscle spindle, Feeling, Somatic markers hypothesis


Spinal cord injuries alter motor function by disconnecting neural circuits above and below the lesion, rendering sensory inputs a primary source of direct external drive to neuronal networks caudal to the injury. Here, we studied mice lacking functional muscle spindle feedback to determine the role of this sensory channel in gait control and locomotor recovery after spinal cord injury. High-resolution kinematic analysis of intact mutant mice revealed proficient execution in basic locomotor tasks but poor performance in a precision task. After injury, wild-type mice spontaneously recovered basic locomotor function, whereas mice with deficient muscle spindle feedback failed to regain control over the hindlimb on the lesioned side. Virus-mediated tracing demonstrated that mutant mice exhibit defective rearrangements of descending circuits projecting to deprived spinal segments during recovery. Our findings reveal an essential role for muscle spindle feedback in directing basic locomotor recovery and facilitating circuit reorganization after spinal cord injury.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Spinal cord, Control theory, Cybernetics, Spinal cord injury, Muscle spindle, Control system