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Architectural and morphological assessment of rat abdominal wall muscles: comparison for use as a human model

Brown SH, Banuelos K, Ward SR, Lieber RL.
J Anat, 2010 217(3):196-202. Epub 2010 Jul 14.


The abdominal wall is a composite of muscles that are important for the mechanical stability of the spine and pelvis. Tremendous clinical attention is given to these muscles, yet little is known about how they function in isolation or how they interact with one another. Given the morphological, vascular, and innervation complexities associated with these muscles and their proximity to the internal organs, an appropriate animal model is important for understanding their physiological and mechanical significance during function. To determine the extent to which the rat abdominal wall resembles that of human, 10 adult male Sprague-Dawley rats were killed and formalin-fixed for architectural and morphological analyses of the four abdominal wall muscles (rectus abdominis, external oblique, internal oblique, and transversus abdominis). Physiological cross-sectional areas and optimal fascicle lengths demonstrated a pattern that was similar to human abdominal wall muscles. In addition, sarcomere lengths measured in the neutral spine posture were similar to human in their relation to optimal sarcomere length. These data indicate that the force-generating and length change capabilities of these muscles, relative to one another, are similar in rat and human. Finally, the fiber lines of action of each abdominal muscle were similar to human over most of the abdominal wall. The main exception was in the lower abdominal region (inferior to the pelvic crest), where the external oblique becomes aponeurotic in human but continues as muscle fibers into its pelvic insertion in the rat. We conclude that, based on the morphology and architecture of the abdominal wall muscles, the adult male Sprague-Dawley rat is a good candidate for a model representation of human, particularly in the middle and upper abdominal wall regions.

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