Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Researcher sees spring-like protein as key to muscle behavior

Date:
September 11, 2011
Source:
Northern Arizona University
Summary:
An idea with its origins in ballistic prey catching -- the way toads and chameleons snatch food with their tongues -- may change fundamental views of muscle movement while powering a new approach to prosthetics.

This schematic diagram illustrates the winding filament hypothesis, which researchers say explains how muscles can adapt instantaneously to changes in the environment without any intervention from the brain.
Credit: Illustration by Theodore A. Uyeno, Valdosta State University

An idea with its origins in ballistic prey catching -- the way toads and chameleons snatch food with their tongues -- may change fundamental views of muscle movement while powering a new approach to prosthetics.

Related Articles


After a decade of work, lead author Kiisa Nishikawa, Regents' professor of biology at Northern Arizona University, and an international team of collaborators have published their hypothesis about spring-loaded muscles. Their paper, "Is titin a 'winding filament'? A new twist on muscle contraction" appears online in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

The implications run deep in the world of movement neuroscience and hold promise for a burgeoning field of pioneers in bionics, exoskeleton robotic suits and prosthetics so advanced that the word "transhumanism" is becoming common.

"It turns out that our bodies are interacting with the environment all the time and our muscles can manage that interaction in a smart way without any intervention from the brain," Nishikawa said. "There's never been a model that explained how muscles are able to do that until now."

Nishikawa's approach lends credence to one of the two schools of thought that attempts to explain how the brain controls movement; namely, that the body and muscles "have a lot of passive-dynamic properties," Nishikawa said, "and the job of the brain is to learn not to interfere with the passive dynamics."

To demonstrate the concept, Nishikawa and her team built a physical model over the summer that "captures all the non-linear properties of muscle" that allow it to adapt instantaneously to changes in the environment, she said. Nishikawa is working with mechanical engineering associate professor John Tester at NAU to design a working prototype.

The practical applications extend to "any device worn by humans where ultimate control comes from the human brain," Nishikawa said. "The potential to improve those devices using this idea is good because the human brain expects its actuators to be muscles, so if you make them work like muscles, it's bound to be more comfortable, efficient and stable."

Getting to the spring-property conclusion took 10 years of grant-funded research and a complete retooling of Nishikawa's lab, which had previously focused on the study of feeding in toads and chameleons to understand the power amplification in muscles that produces ballistic movements.

"We started asking the question, 'What do muscles contribute to control?' Nishikawa said. "Because of the emphasis on fast movement, we were really interested in looking at and accounting for the spring-like properties of muscles." Nishikawa explained that most muscle theory was developed from 1925-75, based on the idea that muscles stretch tendons, and the recovery of energy from the tendons, led to high-power movement. But in the 1980s, the relatively late discovery of titin, the largest protein ever found, raised questions about that conventional view. A few other researchers proposed early ideas about titin as a spring, but their perspective did not include Nishikawa's findings about titin winding.

"Our arms and legs are chock-full of tendons," Nishikawa said, "but our heads and our jaws are not -- there are some, but they are small and short. So we thought there had to be a spring inside the actual working unit of muscle."

Titin, goes the hypothesis, is that spring. At a micron in length and 2 nanometers in diameter, it cannot be directly observed. "But we can model it," Nishikawa said, "and it accounts for a lot of unexplained facts." The computer modeling was performed by Nishikawa's collaborators at the University of British Columbia.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Northern Arizona University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. K. C. Nishikawa, J. A. Monroy, T. E. Uyeno, S. H. Yeo, D. K. Pai, S. L. Lindstedt. Is titin a 'winding filament'? A new twist on muscle contraction. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2011; DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2011.1304

Cite This Page:

Northern Arizona University. "Researcher sees spring-like protein as key to muscle behavior." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 11 September 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110910132419.htm>.
Northern Arizona University. (2011, September 11). Researcher sees spring-like protein as key to muscle behavior. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110910132419.htm
Northern Arizona University. "Researcher sees spring-like protein as key to muscle behavior." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/09/110910132419.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) It's hard to resist those delicious but fattening carbs we all crave during the winter months, but there are some ways to stay satisfied without consuming the extra calories. Vanessa Freeman (@VanessaFreeTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) More than 100 motorcyclists hit the road to spread awareness messages about Ebola. Nearly 7,000 people have now died from the virus, almost all of them in west Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) The new year is coming and nothing will energize you more for 2015 than protein-filled foods. Fitness and nutrition expert John Basedow (@JohnBasedow) gives his favorite high protein foods that will help you build muscle, lose fat and have endless energy. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins