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J Anat. 2013 Jun;222(6):580-7. doi: 10.1111/joa.12045. Epub 2013 Apr 15.

Muscles within muscles: a tensiomyographic and histochemical analysis of the normal human vastus medialis longus and vastus medialis obliquus muscles.

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Department of Orthopedic Surgery, University Medical Centre, Ljubljana, Slovenia.


The aim of this study was to show the connection between structure (anatomical and histochemical) and function (muscle contraction properties) of vastus medialis obliquus (VMO) and vastus medialis longus (VML). The non-invasive tensiomyography (TMG) method was used to determine the contractile properties (contraction time; T(c)) of VML and VMO muscle, as a reflection of the ratio between the slow and fast fibers in two groups of nine young men. VML and VMO significantly (P < 0.01) differ in the proportion of type 1 (59.6: 44%) and type 2b (6.3: 15%) fibers. The VML muscle is almost entirely composed of type 1 and type 2a fibers. In many samples of this muscle no type 2b fibers were found. The proportion of slow-twitch type 1 fibers is nearly twice as high as the proportion of fast-twitch type 2a fibers. These observations indicate that VML is a slower and more fatigue-resistant muscle than VMO muscle. These characteristics correspond to the different functions of the VML, which is an extensor of the knee, and to the VMO, which maintains the stable position of the patella in the femoral groove. Our results obtained by TMG provided additional evidence that muscle fibers within the segments of VM muscle were not homogenous with regard to their contractile properties, thereby confirming the histochemical results. T(c) can be attributed to the higher percentage of slow-twitch fibers - type 1. The statistically shorter T(c) (P ≤ 0.001) of VMO (22.8 ± 4.0 ms) compared with VML (26.7 ± 4.0 ms) in our study is consistent with previously found differences in histochemical, morphological and electrophysiological data. In conclusion, the results of this study provide evidence that the VML and VMO muscles are not only anatomically and histochemically different muscles, but also functionally different biological structures.

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