January 30, 2012 | by Samuel LaBarge
The Helix Blog is a doorway into the lives of students in City of Hope’s Irell & Manella Graduate School of Biological Sciences. I will start with a little background.
My name is Samuel LaBarge, and I have just started my fourth year of graduate school. My interests and depth of knowledge are shallow, but each stretches in many directions. My Helix posts will focus on content I find to be excruciatingly fascinating: muscle function and regeneration, science popularization, basic science research and advocacy. Using a simple but scientific context, I hope to impress upon you one of these topics.
I will start out with a little primer on my day-to-day focus; that is, my dissertation on muscle function and regeneration.
On a basic level, skeletal muscle has an almost simplistic function. Two proteins, myosin and actin, interact with each other in a manner termed the Sliding Filament Theory of muscle contraction. The myosin proteins generate cross bridges with the actin filaments in a dynamic and cyclical manner. This process allows the myosin to pull the actin producing muscle contraction, which in turn allows us to interact with the environment (e.g., walking, sitting upright and eye movement).. Now interestingly, the skeletal muscle can regenerate following damage and retains this capacity throughout the majority of life. Regeneration provides a homeostatic mechanism to overcome loss of muscle following atrophy and the renewal of muscle following use (e.g., exercise). However, in multiple diseases as well as aging, skeletal muscle has a decreased ability to function and regenerate new fibers. This disease-associated loss of skeletal muscle function severally decreases quality of life and increases co-morbidities. My work involves understanding the basic mechanisms of skeletal muscle regeneration. That is, how pathways involved in energy production in the muscle play a role during regeneration.
Understanding basic mechanisms provides robust scientific advancement. Such advancement leads to beneficial treatment of diseases. As a fourth-year graduate student, I am intertwined in the basic structure and function of skeletal muscle, which may one day provide insights to improve quality of life.
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