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J Theor Biol. 2004 Jul 21;229(2):263-80.

Somatic and intramuscular distribution of muscle spindles and their relation to muscular angiotypes.

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Laboratory of Physiology, School of Health Professions, TEI of Athens, Agiou Spyridonos, 12210 Aigaleo, Athens, Greece.


The distribution pattern of muscle spindles in the skeletal musculature has been reviewed in a large number of muscles (using the literature data especially from cat and man), and the relation of spindle content to muscle mass was quantitatively examined in 36 cat and 140 human muscles. In both species, the number of spindles increases with increasing muscle mass in a power law fashion of the form y=bx+a, whereby y denotes the logarithm of spindle content within a muscle, and x is the logarithm of muscle mass. For the cat, slope b and intercept a were estimated as 0.39 and 1.53, and for man as 0.48 and 1.33, respectively. The results show that the spindle content of a muscle may be related to its mass, confirming a similar analysis made previously by Banks and Stacey (Mechano receptors, Plenum Press, New York, 1988, pp. 263-269) in a different data set. With regard to the histological profile of muscle fibers, (as it is already well documented by many groups) muscle spindles tend to be located in deeper muscle regions where oxidative fibers predominate, and are far scarcer in superficial and flat muscle regions where glycolytic fibers predominate. These discrete muscle regions differ also in the properties of the vessel tree supplying them, for which the term oxidative and glycolytic "angiotype" has been used. The results from these three aspects of analysis (relation to muscle mass, relation to muscle regions with high oxidative index and relation to muscle regions with dense vascular supply) were combined with histological findings showing that spindles may be in systematic anatomical contact to intramuscular vessels. Based on these data a hypothesis is proposed according to which, both the number and intramuscular placement of muscle spindles are related to the oxidative angiotype supplying the muscle territories rich in oxidative fibers. The hypothesis is discussed.

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