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Mini microscope is a window into live muscle tissue

New technology lets researchers see motor nerve cells and muscle fibers in action

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12:00pm, December 16, 2015
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MUSCLE TWITCH  In a stroke-affected biceps brachii muscle (top), muscle fibers exhibited wiggly contractions over time (x-axis), even though the volunteer was trying to relax. Fibers in the unaffected arm (bottom) held steady, showing no involuntary contractions.

Step aside, Fitbit. Data-driven fitness gadgets have nothing on this: A tiny, wearable microscope catches glimpses of muscles in action. The mini microscope, described in the Dec. 16 Neuron, can track minute twitches of most major muscles in live people, a technological feat that was previously impossible.

“It’s an amazing piece of work,” says biomedical engineer Paul Campagnola of the University of Wisconsin‒Madison. This new technology will help scientists better understand how muscles work both in healthy people and in those whose muscles have been affected by stroke, cerebral palsy or other neuromuscular disorders, he says.

Applied physicist and neuroscientist Mark Schnitzer of Stanford University and colleagues had previously designed a large microscope that could image muscle contractions in live people. But that method, described in 2008, was restricted to the

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