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J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2001 May;56(5):B191-7.

Specific force deficit in skeletal muscles of old rats is partially explained by the existence of denervated muscle fibers.

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  • 1Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Department of Surgery, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 48109-0340, USA.


We tested the hypothesis that denervated muscle fibers account for part of the specific force (sF(o)) deficit observed in muscles from old adult (OA) mammals. Whole muscle force (F(o)) was quantified for extensor digitorum longus (EDL) muscles of OA and young adult (YA) rats. EDL muscle sF(o) was calculated by dividing F(o) by either total muscle fiber cross-sectional area (CSA) or by innervated fiber CSA. Innervated fiber CSA was estimated from EDL muscle cross sections labeled for neural cell adhesion molecules, whose presence is a marker for muscle fiber denervation. EDL muscles from OA rats contained significantly more denervated fibers than muscles from YA rats (5.6% vs 1.1% of total CSA). When compared with YA muscle, OA muscle demonstrated deficits of 34.1% for F(o), 28.3% for sF(o), and 24.9% for sF(o) calculated by using innervated CSA as the denominator. Denervated muscle fibers accounted for 11.3% of the specific force difference between normal YA and OA skeletal muscle. Other mechanisms in addition to denervation account for the majority of the sF(o) deficit with aging.

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