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iSGTW Image of the week: The micro-world of muscle cells

Image of the week - The micro-world of muscle cells


These four visualizations show four sections of a muscle cell, each comprising several saromeres. Different colours indicate different organelles, including the myofibrillar system, sarcoplasmic reticulum, mitochondria and t-tubules. The cell envelope is rendered transparently.
Image courtesy of GeomCell

Enter the micro-world of your muscle cells, and you'll find the entire length of a muscle "fiber" is actually a single cell.

Called "skeletal muscle cells," these giants are comprised of a number of repeating units, called sarcomeres, which contain cellular organelles such as myofibrils, mitochondria, t-tubules and sarcoplasmic reticulum.

These organelles, even if of the same type, vary widely in their size, shape and location within the cell. Moreover, they often display complex spatial relationships.

To understand the complexity of a muscle cell, realistic computer models are instrumental and may serve as a virtual cell for experiments, allowing scientists to assess the validity of stereological and morphological techniques.

Modeling your muscle

A good muscle cell model must maintain the typical morphological characteristics of organelles-such as topology, shape, volume and surface area-as well as their spatial organization within the scene.

The GeomCell modeling system, created by UMFG SAS and ported to the EGEE grid by II SAS, provides the user with flexible tools to build organelles with arbitrary topology within the muscle cell infrastructure. This allows users to create realistic 3D scenes of the micro-world of muscle cells. Such visualizations provide some means for ascertaining the fidelity of the model or the plausibility of the cell structure.

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