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Contractile Function And Low-intensity Exercise Effects Of Old Dystrophic (mdx) Mice

Alan Hayes, David A. Williams

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Old mdx mice display a severe myopathy almost identical to Duchenne’s muscular dystrophy. This study examined the contractile properties of old mdxmuscles and investigated any effects of low-intensity exercise. Isometric contractile properties of the extensor digitorum longus (EDL) and soleus muscles were tested in adult (8–10 mo) and old (24 mo, split into sedentary and exercised groups) mdx mice. The EDL and soleus from old mdx mice exhibited decreased absolute twitch and tetanic forces, and the soleus exhibited a >50% decrease in relative forces (13.4 ± 0.4 vs. 6.0 ± 0.9 N/cm2) compared with adult mice. Old mdx muscles also showed longer contraction times and a higher percentage of type I fibers. Normal and mdx mice completed 10 wk of swimming, but mdx mice spent significantly less time swimming than normal animals (7.8 ± 0.4 vs. 15.8 ± 1.1 min, respectively). However, despite their severe dystrophy, mdx muscles responded positively to the low-intensity exercise. Relative tetanic tensions were increased (∼25% and ∼45% for the EDL and soleus, respectively) after the swimming, although absolute forces were unaffected. Thus these results indicate that, even with a dystrophin-deficient myopathy, mdx muscles can still respond to low-intensity exercise. This study shows that the contractile function of muscles of old mdx mice displays many similarities to that of human dystrophic patients and provides further evidence that the use of non-weight-bearing, low-intensity exercises, such as swimming, has no detrimental effect on dystrophic muscle and could be a useful therapeutic aid for sufferers of muscular dystrophy.