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Key Aspects Of Phrenic Motoneuron And Diaphragm Muscle Development During The Perinatal Period

Carlos B. Mantilla, Gary C. Sieck

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At the time of birth, respiratory muscles must be activated to sustain ventilation. The perinatal development of respiratory motor units (comprising an individual motoneuron and the muscle fibers it innervates) shows remarkable features that enable mammals to transition from in utero conditions to the air environment in which the remainder of their life will occur. In addition, significant postnatal maturation is necessary to provide for the range of motor behaviors necessary during breathing, swallowing, and speech. As the main inspiratory muscle, the diaphragm muscle (and the phrenic motoneurons that innervate it) plays a key role in accomplishing these behaviors. Considerable diversity exists across diaphragm motor units, but the determinant factors for this diversity are unknown. In recent years, the mechanisms underlying the development of respiratory motor units have received great attention, and this knowledge may provide the opportunity to design appropriate interventions for the treatment of respiratory disease not only in the perinatal period but likely also in the adult.