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Nature. 2008 Aug 7;454(7205):784-8. doi: 10.1038/nature07104. Epub 2008 Jul 6.

Minimally invasive high-speed imaging of sarcomere contractile dynamics in mice and humans.

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Bio-X Program, James H. Clark Center for Biomedical Engineering & Sciences, Stanford University, Stanford, California 94305, USA.


Sarcomeres are the basic contractile units of striated muscle. Our knowledge about sarcomere dynamics has primarily come from in vitro studies of muscle fibres and analysis of optical diffraction patterns obtained from living muscles. Both approaches involve highly invasive procedures and neither allows examination of individual sarcomeres in live subjects. Here we report direct visualization of individual sarcomeres and their dynamical length variations using minimally invasive optical microendoscopy to observe second-harmonic frequencies of light generated in the muscle fibres of live mice and humans. Using microendoscopes as small as 350 microm in diameter, we imaged individual sarcomeres in both passive and activated muscle. Our measurements permit in vivo characterization of sarcomere length changes that occur with alterations in body posture and visualization of local variations in sarcomere length not apparent in aggregate length determinations. High-speed data acquisition enabled observation of sarcomere contractile dynamics with millisecond-scale resolution. These experiments point the way to in vivo imaging studies demonstrating how sarcomere performance varies with physical conditioning and physiological state, as well as imaging diagnostics revealing how neuromuscular diseases affect contractile dynamics.

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