Spinal cord injury (SCI) results in muscle weakness but the degree of impairment at the level of single fibers is not known. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of T9-level SCI on single muscle fibers from the tibialis anterior of rats. Significant decreases in cross-sectional area (CSA), maximal force (Po), and specific force (SF = Po/CSA) were noted at 2 weeks. Atrophy and force-generating capacity were reversed at 4 weeks, but SF remained impaired. Maximum shortening velocity (Vo) did not change after injury. SCI thus appears to affect various contractile properties of single muscle fibers differently. Normal cage activity may partially restore function but new interventions are needed to restore muscle fiber quality.
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