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Structure of Skeletal Muscle

A whole skeletal muscle is considered an organ of the muscular system. Each organ or muscle consists
of skeletal muscle tissue, connective tissue, nerve tissue, and blood or vascular tissue.

Skeletal muscles vary considerably in size, shape, and arrangement of fibers. They range from
extremely tiny strands such as the stapedium muscle of the middle ear to large masses such as the
muscles of the thigh. Some skeletal muscles are broad in shape and some narrow. In some muscles the
fibers are parallel to the long axis of the muscle; in some they converge to a narrow attachment; and in
some they are oblique.

Each skeletal muscle fiber is a single cylindrical muscle cell. An individual skeletal muscle may be
made up of hundreds, or even thousands, of muscle fibers bundled together and wrapped in a
connective tissue covering. Each muscle is surrounded by a connective tissue sheath called the
epimysium. Fascia, connective tissue outside the epimysium, surrounds and separates the muscles.
Portions of the epimysium project inward to divide the muscle into compartments. Each compartment
contains a bundle of muscle fibers. Each bundle of muscle fiber is called a fasciculus and is surrounded
by a layer of connective tissue called the perimysium. Within the fasciculus, each individual muscle
cell, called a muscle fiber, is surrounded by connective tissue called the endomysium.

Skeletal muscle cells (fibers), like other body cells, are soft and fragile. The connective tissue covering
furnish support and protection for the delicate cells and allow them to withstand the forces of
contraction. The coverings also provide pathways for the passage of blood vessels and nerves.

Commonly, the epimysium, perimysium, and endomysium extend beyond the fleshy part of the muscle,
the belly or gaster, to form a thick ropelike tendon or a broad, flat sheet-like aponeurosis. The tendon
and aponeurosis form indirect attachments from muscles to the periosteum of bones or to the
connective tissue of other muscles. Typically a muscle spans a joint and is attached to bones by tendons
at both ends. One of the bones remains relatively fixed or stable while the other end moves as a result
of muscle contraction.

Skeletal muscles have an abundant supply of blood vessels and nerves. This is directly related to the
primary function of skeletal muscle, contraction. Before a skeletal muscle fiber can contract, it has to
receive an impulse from a nerve cell. Generally, an artery and at least one vein accompany each nerve
that penetrates the epimysium of a skeletal muscle. Branches of the nerve and blood vessels follow the
connective tissue components of the muscle of a nerve cell and with one or more minute blood vessels
called capillaries.

Force-velocity Relationship

The force generated by a muscle is a function of its velocity. Historically, the force-velocity
relationship has been used to define the dynamic properties of the cross-bridges which cycle during
muscle contraction.

The force-velocity relationship, like the length-tension relationship, is a curve that actually represents
the results of many experiments plotted on the same graph. Experimentally, a muscle is allowed to
shorten against a constant load. The muscle velocity during shortening is measured and then plotted
against the resistive force. The general form of this relationship is shown in the graph below. On the
horizontal axis is plotted muscle velocity relative to maximum velocity (V max) while on the vertical axis
is plotted muscle force relative to maximum isometric force (P o).
What is the physiologic basis of the force-velocity relationship? The force generated by a muscle
depends on the total number of cross-bridges attached. Because it takes a finite amount of time for
cross-bridges to attach, as filaments slide past one another faster and faster (i.e., as the muscle shortens
with increasing velocity), force decreases due to the lower number of cross-bridges attached.
Conversely, as the relative filament velocity decreases (i.e., as muscle velocity decreases), more
cross-bridges have time to attach and to generate force, and thus force increases. This discussion is not
meant to provide a detailed description of the basis for the force-velocity relationship, only to provide
insight as to how cross-bridge rate constants can affect muscle force generation as a function of

Muscles are strengthened based on the force placed across the muscle. Higher forces produce greater
strengthening. Therefore, exercises performed with muscle activated in a way that allows them to
contract at high velocities, necessarily imply that they are also contracting with relatively low force.
This is intuitively obvious as you lift a light load compared to a heavy loadthe light load can be
moved much more quickly. However, these rapid movements would have very small strengthening
effects since the muscle forces are so low.

Cell structure and metabolism

C. tetani is a bacillus (rod-shaped) gram positive bacterium, which means it possess a
thick cell wall made up of multiple layers of peptidoglycan and one inner membrane.
C. tetani are motile bacteria and move by the means of rotary flagellum in the
peritrichous orientation. C. tetani in the presence of oxygen changes into its
endospore (drum stick shaped) conformation.

C. tetani synthesizes ATP by the use of a sodium motive force as well as fermentation.
The bacterium relies on the breakdown of amino acids (driven into the cell with the
help of sodium ion pumps) by various enzymes into pyruvate. The pyruvate can then
be fermented into lactate as well as converted into acetyl-CoA. The pyruvate can also
donate electrons to a membrane bound electron transport system with the help of a
ferredoxin oxidoreductase reaction. The electron transport system results in the
secretion of sodium ions thus creating a sodium motive force, which leads to the
synthesis of ATP by sodium ion driven ATP synthases. (Bruggeman et al)
C. tetani is found mostly in warm, damp areas, especially in manure treated soil, but
can also be found in the intestines or feces of many animals, such as horse, sheep, and
dogs. In its vegetative state, C. tetani is heat sensitive and cannot survive in the
presence of oxygen. However its spores are resistant to heat and some antiseptics, but
oxygen rich areas are also toxic to them. When in soil, they can last for months or
even years in the proper conditions.The spores can germinate through the dead cells
of the body, thus spreading toxins. [Atkinson et al.]

C. tetani affects humans by causing the disease called tetanus. The spores enter its
host through open wounds, lacerations, or burns where many cells are dead. This
provides the necessary environment for C. tetani to begin to spread its virulence
factors. In the presence of anaerobic conditions (lacking oxygen), the spores can
germinate. This is when the spores produce toxins that are harmful to the human
nervous system. The toxin tetanospasmin travels through the body via the nervous
system, where its goal is to reach the spinal cord. Here is where the toxin really begins
to attack the body. The toxin interferes with the neurotransmitters and, thus, blocks
messages to the brain. This leads to unwanted muscle contractions and spasms, and in
bad cases, individuals can experience severe seizures.

The only way to help prevent the tetanus disease is by getting proper immunization. It
is the only vaccine-preventable disease that is infectious, but not contagious. This
means it can not be transferred in any way from person to person. If suffering from
tetanus, there are antibiotics and medication that can be taken to help the patient heal.
Most patients have only spasms, but those spasms can effect chest muscles causing
problems with breathing. If a patient does not seek treatment, there is a strong
possibility of death. Tetanus can affect newborns whose mother's have never received
proper immunization, and typically they are infected by the umbilical stump when it
has not been cut with properly sterilized instruments. The death rate in infants is much
higher than that of adults affected by tetanus. [Atkinson et al.]