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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2004 Jul;287(1):H196-202. Epub 2004 Mar 4.

Single cell mechanics of rat cardiomyocytes under isometric, unloaded, and physiologically loaded conditions.

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Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, Graduate School of Medicine, University of Tokyo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan.


One of the most salient characteristics of the heart is its ability to adjust work output to external load. To examine whether a single cardiomyocyte preparation retains this property, we measured the contractile function of a single rat cardiomyocyte under a wide range of loading conditions using a force-length measurement system implemented with adaptive control. A pair of carbon fibers was used to clamp the cardiomyocyte, attached to each end under a microscope. One fiber was stiff, serving as a mechanical anchor, while the bending motion of the compliant fiber was monitored for force-length measurement. Furthermore, by controlling the position of the compliant fiber using a piezoelectric translator based on adaptive control, we could change load dynamically during contractions. Under unloaded conditions, maximal shortening velocity was 106 +/- 8.9 microm/s (n = 13 cells), and, under isometric conditions, peak developed force reached 5,720 nN (41.6 +/- 5.6 mN/mm(2); n = 17 cells). When we simulated physiological working conditions consisting of an isometric contraction, followed by shortening and relaxation, the average work output was 828 +/- 123 J/m(3) (n = 20 cells). The top left corners of tension-length loops obtained under all of these conditions approximate a line, analogous to the end-systolic pressure-volume relation of the ventricle. All of the functional characteristics described were analogous to those established by studies using papillary muscle or trabeculae preparations. In conclusion, the present results confirmed the fact that each myocyte forms the functional basis for ventricular function and that single cell mechanics can be a link between subcellular events and ventricular mechanics.

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