In previous applications of the finite element method in modeling mechanical behavior of skeletal muscle, the passive and active properties of muscle tissue were lumped in one finite element. Although this approach yields increased understanding of effects of force transmission, it does not support an assessment of the interaction between the intracellular structures and extracellular matrix. In the present study, skeletal muscle is considered in two domains: (1) the intracellular domain and (2) extracellular matrix domain. The two domains are represented by two separate meshes that are linked elastically to account for the trans-sarcolemmal attachments of the muscle fibers’ cytoskeleton and extracellular matrix. With this approach a finite element skeletal muscle model is developed, which allows force transmission between these domains with the possibility of investigating their interaction as well as the role of the trans-sarcolemmal systems. The model is applied to show the significance of myofascial force transmission by investigating possible mechanical consequences due to any missing link within the trans-sarcolemmal connections such as found in muscular dystrophies. This is realized by making the links between the two meshes highly compliant at selected intramuscular locations. The results indicate the role of extracellular matrix for a muscle in sustaining its physiological condition. It is shown that if there is an inadequate linking to the extracellular matrix, the myofibers become deformed beyond physiological limits due to the lacking of mechanical support and impairment of a pathway of force transmission by the extracellular matrix. This leads to calculation of a drop of muscle force and if the impairment is located more towards the center of the muscle model, its effects are more pronounced. These results indicate the significance of non-myotendinous force transmission pathways.
- Muscular dystrophies
- Intramuscular myofascial force transmission
- Trans-sarcolemmal attachments
- Finite Element Method
- Rat gastrocnemius medialis muscle