Papillary muscles were isolated from the right ventricles of rats and the length for maximum active force generation (Lmax) was determined isometrically. The work loop technique was used to derive the length for maximum work production (Lopt) at the cycle frequency, strain amplitude and stimulation phase shift found to be optimal for power output. Lopt was typically 7% shorter than Lmax and within the physiological length range (87.5% Lmax to Lmax). Net work and power output were measured during sinusoidal strain cycles around Lopt, over the cycle frequency range 1-9 Hz, strain amplitude and phase shift being optimised for work and power at each frequency. Experiments were performed at 37 degrees C. Distinct optima were found in both the work-frequency and the power-frequency relationships. The optimum cycle frequency for net work production was lower than the frequency for maximum power output. The mean maximum power output at 37 degrees C was 8.62 +/- 0.50 W kg-1 (mean +/- S.E.M., N = 9) and was achieved at a cycle frequency of approximately 6 Hz, close to the estimated resting heart rate of 5.8 Hz for the rats used (mean mass 223 +/- 25 g). The cycle frequency, strain amplitude and stimulation phase shift found to be optimal for power output produced an in vitro contraction closely simulating the basal in vivo contraction.

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