Recovery of muscles of old rats after hindlimb immobilisation by external fixation is impaired compared with those of young rats

N. Zarzhevsky, E. Carmeli, D. Fuchs, R. Coleman, H. Stein, A. Z. Reznick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The right hindlimbs of 24-month-old female Wistar rats were immobilised for 4weeks using external fixation of the knee joint. In a further group, after the external fixation was removed, the rats were allowed to remobilise for an additional 4weeks. Hindlimb immobilisation for 4weeks caused a 32-42% reduction in wet weights of the hindlimb muscles of the rats as compared to those of the contralateral non-immobilised legs. After 4weeks of remobilisation the hindlimb muscles had not returned to the 'control' weights. Biochemical changes in the gastrocnemius muscle resulting from the external fixation showed greatly elevated acid phosphatase activities (33.2%) and markedly reduced creatine phosphokinase activities (17.2%), which did not recover to preimmobilisation values after 4weeks of remobilisation. Light and transmission electron microscopy showed that remobilisation for 4weeks (after external fixation) resulted in only partial morphological restoration of the damage to the muscles in these aged rats. A comparison of similar hindlimb external fixation and remobilisation in young (6months old) rats showed that remobilisation caused a substantial recovery in biochemical parameters in both age groups, with the muscles of the young group (but not the old group) often reaching almost complete recovery accompanied by morphological restoration. We conclude that the net gain in the recovery period of biochemical and morphological parameters is significantly greater in the young rats compared to the old rats indicating that muscle metabolism and capacity for recovery from disuse atrophy is impaired with ageing.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5379
Pages (from-to)125-140
Number of pages16
JournalExperimental Gerontology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was supported in part by a grant from the Jan M. and Eugenia Krol Foundation, Lakewood, NJ, USA, and by grant #181-883 from the Technion, Vice-Provost for Research. We would also like to acknowledge the excellent technical help of Mrs Pessiah Shenzer.


  • Ageing
  • Disuse atrophy
  • External fixation
  • Rats
  • Remobilisation
  • Skeletal muscle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Endocrinology
  • Aging
  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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