ABSTRACT

We investigated age-related changes to fascicle length, sarcomere length and serial sarcomere number (SSN), and how this affects passive force. Following mechanical testing to determine passive force, the medial gastrocnemius muscle of young (n=9) and old (n=8) Fisher 344BN hybrid rats was chemically fixed at the optimal muscle length for force production; individual fascicles were dissected for length measurement, and laser diffraction was used to assess sarcomere length. Old rats had ∼14% shorter fascicle lengths than young rats, which was driven by a ∼10% reduction in SSN, with no difference in sarcomere length (∼4%). Passive force was greater in the old than in the young rats at long muscle lengths. Shorter fascicle lengths and reduced SSN in the old rats could not entirely explain increased passive forces for absolute length changes, owing to a slight reduction in sarcomere length in old rats, resulting in similar sarcomere length at long muscle lengths.

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