Anatomical and ontogenetic influences on muscle density



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Journal Article

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Scientific reports





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Physiological cross-sectional area (PCSA), an important biomechanical variable, is an estimate of a muscle's contractile force potential and is derived from dividing muscle mass by the product of a muscle's average fascicle length and a theoretical constant representing the density of mammalian skeletal muscle. This density constant is usually taken from experimental studies of small samples of several model taxa using tissues collected predominantly from the lower limbs of adult animals. The generalized application of this constant to broader analyses of mammalian myology assumes that muscle density (1) is consistent across anatomical regions and (2) is unaffected by the aging process. To investigate the validity of these assumptions, we studied muscles of rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus) in the largest sample heretofore investigated explicitly for these variables, and we did so from numerous anatomical regions and from three different age-cohorts. Differences in muscle density and histology as a consequence of age and anatomical region were evaluated using Tukey's HSD tests. Overall, we observed that older individuals tend to have denser muscles than younger individuals. Our findings also demonstrated significant differences in muscle density between anatomic regions within the older cohorts, though none in the youngest cohort. Approximately 50% of the variation in muscle density can be explained histologically by the average muscle fiber area and the average percent fiber area. That is, muscles with larger average fiber areas and a higher proportion of fiber area tend to be denser. Importantly, using the age and region dependent measurements of muscle density that we provide may increase the accuracy of PCSA estimations. Although we found statistically significant differences related to ontogeny and anatomical region, if density cannot be measured directly, the specific values presented herein should be used to improve accuracy. If a single muscle density constant that has been better validated than the ones presented in the previous literature is preferred, then 1.0558 and 1.0502 g/cm would be reasonable constants to use across all adult and juvenile muscles respectively.

Open Access