Low frequency chronic electrical stimulation can have a beneficial effect on dystrophic muscles. The present study was undertaken to assess the long term effect of such stimulation on the fast hind limb muscles of dystrophic mice. The relationship between the changes induced by stimulation and the initial condition of the dystrophic muscles, as well as other factors which might contribute to this relationship, were examined. The stimulation induced an increase in the force output of weak dystrophic muscles and a speeding of their time course of contraction and relaxation, as well as an increase in their fatigue resistance. In relatively strong dystrophic muscles, the stimulation induced similar changes in contractile speed and fatigue characteristics, but it led to a slight decrease in force output. Our results suggest that the stimulation promotes the growth and differentiation of the small regenerating fibres known to be present in the diseased muscles and, in addition, induces an increase in the mitochondrial content of the muscle fibres. Our results indicate that these effects are not permanent.
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