Exercise may help tone our muscles, but their underlying strength depends on complex interactions between individual muscle fibres and an intricate protein ‘Velcro’ that connects muscle to tendons. If a vital piece of the protein mesh is missing or damaged, muscle is easily torn from its base and muscular dystrophy results. Scientists keen to combat muscular dystrophy have engineered zebrafish embryos to mimic the condition. Here, they used a technique called genetic mosaic analysis to graft normal (stained blue) and weak (red) zebrafish muscle fibres into normal muscle tissue (green). This mosaic of muscle allows mutant fibres to overcome their weakness and take the strain as the muscle contracts. Building a molecular picture of muscle structure and function is helping researchers identify ways to tackle inherited conditions like Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy that currently affects 1 in 3600 boys.
Written by Caroline Cross
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