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PLoS One. 2017 Sep 6;12(9):e0183853. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0183853. eCollection 2017.

Spatial and age-related changes in the microstructure of dystrophic and healthy diaphragms.

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Department of Biomedical Engineering, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, United States of America.
Auckland Bioengineering Institute, University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand.
Department of Ophthalmology, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, United States of America.
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, United States of America.


Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is a progressive degenerative disease that results in fibrosis and atrophy of muscles. The main cause of death associated with DMD is failure of the diaphragm. The diaphragm is a dome-shaped muscle with a fiber microstructure that differs across regions of the muscle. However, no studies to our knowledge have examined spatial variations of muscle fibers in dystrophic diaphragm or how aging affects those variations in DMD. In this study, diaphragms were obtained from mdx and healthy mice at ages three, seven, and ten months in the dorsal, midcostal, and ventral regions. Through immunostaining and confocal imaging, we quantified sarcomere length, interstitial space between fibers, fiber branching, fiber cross sectional area (CSA), and fiber regeneration measured by centrally located nuclei. Because DMD is associated with chronic inflammation, we also investigated the number of macrophages in diaphragm muscle cross-sections. We saw regional differences in the number of regenerating fibers and macrophages during the progression of DMD in the mdx diaphragm. Additionally, the number of regenerating fibers increased with age, while CSA and the number of branching fibers decreased. Dystrophic diaphragms had shorter sarcomere lengths than age-matched controls. Our results suggest that the dystrophic diaphragm in the mdx mouse is structurally heterogeneous and remodels non-uniformly over time. Understanding regional changes in dystrophic diaphragms over time will facilitate the development of targeted therapies to prevent or minimize respiratory failure in DMD patients.

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