Effect of long-term muscle paralysis on human single fiber mechanics

Laurent Malisoux, Cécile Jamart, Krystel Delplace, Henri Nielens, Marc Francaux, Daniel Theisen*

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    58 Citations (Scopus)


    This study compared human muscles following long-term reduced neuromuscular activity to those with normal functioning regarding single fiber properties. Biopsies were obtained from the vastus lateralis of 5 individuals with chronic (>3 yr) spinal cord injury (SCI) and 10 able-bodied controls (CTRL). Chemically skinned fibers were tested for active and passive mechanical characteristics and subsequently classified according to myosin heavy chain (MHC) content. SCI individuals had smaller proportions of type I (11 ± 7 vs. 34 ± 5%) and IIa fibers (11 ± 6 vs. 31 ± 5%), whereas type IIx fibers were more frequent (40 ± 13 vs. 7 ± 3%) compared with CTRL subjects (P < 0.05). Cross-sectional area and peak force were similar in both groups for all fiber types. Unloaded shortening velocity of fibers from paralyzed muscles was higher in type IIa, IIa/IIx, and IIx fibers (26, 65, and 47%, respectively; P < 0.01). Consequently, absolute peak power was greater in type IIa (46%; P < 0.05) and IIa/IIx fibers (118%; P < 0.01) of the SCI group, whereas normalized peak power was higher in type IIa/IIx fibers (71%; P < 0.001). Ca2+ sensitivity and passive fiber characteristics were not different between the two groups in any fiber type. Composite values (average value across all fibers analyzed within each study participant) showed similar results for cross-sectional area and peak force, whereas maximal contraction velocity and fiber power were more than 100% greater in SCI individuals. These data illustrate that contractile performance is preserved or even higher in the remaining fibers of human muscles following reduced neuromuscular activity.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)340-349
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - Jan 2007


    • Chemically skinned fibers
    • Fiber power
    • Passive tension
    • Spinal cord injury
    • Unloaded shortening velocity


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