Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Innervation Innovation

Nerve transplant shows that muscles adapt according to the nerve's origin

06 February 2019

Innervation Innovation

From swinging our running legs, to pulling our eyes shut in bright light, muscles stretch behind every move we make. To control them, nerve cells called motor neurons carry signals from the brain and central nervous system towards bundles of muscle fibres, helping to shape patterns of contractions. Injury can damage these connections, reducing movement – but nerve transplants may be an answer. This muscle, from a rat’s paw, has a mixture of two types of muscle fibre (highlighted in yellow and green). Transplanting paw muscle’s nerve to reconnect, or innervate, a bicep in the front leg had a surprising effect – the leg muscle changed, developing a fibre pattern similar to the paw. That muscle adapts to match the specific nerve 'plugged in' during transplant raises hopes for future surgeries, and the design prosthetic tissues with a greater chance of settling in to life.

Written by John Ankers

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