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Mechanical properties within and beyond the physiological length of the semitendinosus muscle of knee-immobilized rats

  • Kengo Minamimoto
    Affiliations
    Major in Medical Engineering and Technology, Graduate School of Medical Technology and Health Welfare Sciences, Hiroshima International University, Kurose-Gakuendai 555-36, Higashi-Hiroshima, Hiroshima, Japan
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  • Junya Ozawa
    Correspondence
    Corresponding author at: Department of Rehabilitation, Faculty of Rehabilitation, Hiroshima International University, Kurose-Gakuendai 555-36, Higashi-Hiroshima, Hiroshima 739-2695, Japan.
    Affiliations
    Department of Rehabilitation, Faculty of Rehabilitation, Hiroshima International University, Kurose-Gakuendai 555-36, Higashi-Hiroshima, Hiroshima, Japan
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  • Akinori Kaneguchi
    Affiliations
    Department of Rehabilitation, Faculty of Rehabilitation, Hiroshima International University, Kurose-Gakuendai 555-36, Higashi-Hiroshima, Hiroshima, Japan
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  • Kaoru Yamaoka
    Affiliations
    Department of Rehabilitation, Faculty of Rehabilitation, Hiroshima International University, Kurose-Gakuendai 555-36, Higashi-Hiroshima, Hiroshima, Japan
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      Highlights

      • Maximum semitendinosus muscle-tendon unit length in vivo was 105% slack length.
      • Knee immobilization decreased knee joint extension range of motion.
      • Immobilization stiffened muscle within limit of muscle-tendon unit length in vivo.
      • Muscle stiffness matched the control beyond limit of muscle-tendon unit length.
      • Collagen content of semitendinosus muscle slightly increased with immobilization.

      Abstract

      Background

      The effects of immobilization on passive muscle mechanical properties are inconsistent between studies. Here, we investigated the mechanical properties of immobilized muscle by obtaining length-force curves within and beyond the physiological muscle-tendon length in a knee-contractured rat model.

      Methods

      Unilateral rat knee joints were immobilized using an external fixator for up to 21 days. Length-passive force relationships in the immobilized and contralateral semitendinosus muscles were determined by tensile testing.

      Findings

      The semitendinosus muscle-tendon length at end physiologic length in vivo was approximately at 5% strain of the slack length. Dynamic, elastic, and viscous force (three aspects of muscle mechanical properties) evoked by instantaneous constant stretch were higher than contralateral side within the physiological muscle-tendon length limit (strains of 5% or 5%–7.5% slack length). When beyond muscle-tendon length corresponding to the maximum knee extension (strains of 7.5% or 10%–20% slack length), there was no difference between the two sides. Dynamic and elastic stiffness were also larger, as estimated by tangent angles of length-force curves, at strains of 5% slack length, and matched contralateral levels at strains of 7.5% slack length on day 21. There were no differences in semitendinosus muscle-tendon lengths overtime. Despite significantly reductions in knee extension range of motion, collagen content only showed slight changes and correlation was hardly detected between collagen and mechanical properties on day 21.

      Interpretation

      Viscoelasticity in immobilized semitendinosus muscle increased within the physiological muscle-tendon length. Collagen content may have little effect on passive force and stiffness.

      Keywords

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