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Muscle Nerve. 2004 Jul;30(1):77-86.

Number of contractions to maintain mass and force of a denervated rat muscle.

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Institute of Gerontology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.


Within 5 weeks, denervated extensor digitorum longus (EDL) muscles of rats lose 66% of mass, 91% of force, and 76% of fiber cross-sectional area (CSA). We previously determined the parameters of electrical stimulation for denervated rat EDL muscles to generate tetanic contractions sufficient to maintain mass and force close to control values. Using these parameters, we tested the hypothesis that a range exists for number of contractions per day, below and above which values for mass, maximum force, and fiber CSA are lower than values for innervated control muscles. For 5 weeks, denervated EDL muscles were stimulated to generate between 25 and 5000 contractions daily with contractions separated by constant intervals of rest, repeated 24 h per day. Force was not maintained with fewer than 200 or more than 800 contractions daily, whereas mass and fiber CSA were not maintained with fewer than 50 contractions daily. Protocols of stimulation that maintain muscle mass and force during prolonged periods of denervation may minimize problems clinically associated with denervation atrophy.

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