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Prog Brain Res. 2006;151:43-80.

Biological organization of the extraocular muscles.

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Department of Anatomy, Medical College of Virginia, Richmond, VA 23298, USA.


Extraocular muscle is fundamentally distinct from other skeletal muscles. Here, we review the biological organization of the extraocular muscles with the intent of understanding this novel muscle group in the context of oculomotor system function. The specific objectives of this review are threefold. The first objective is to understand the anatomic arrangement of the extraocular muscles and their compartmental or layered organization in the context of a new concept of orbital mechanics, the active pulley hypothesis. The second objective is to present an integrated view of the morphologic, cellular, and molecular differences between extraocular and the more traditional skeletal muscles. The third objective is to relate recent data from functional and molecular biology studies to the established extraocular muscle fiber types. Developmental mechanisms that may be responsible for the divergence of the eye muscles from a skeletal muscle prototype also are considered. Taken together, a multidisciplinary understanding of extraocular muscle biology in health and disease provides insights into oculomotor system function and malfunction. Moreover, because the eye muscles are selectively involved or spared in a variety of neuromuscular diseases, knowledge of their biology may improve current pathogenic models of and treatments for devastating systemic diseases.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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