In order to gain a deeper understanding of neuromuscular physiology on the elemental level, scientists at Stanford University have fitted a 20-gauge needle with sophisticated optics that can be inserted into a patient’s musculoskeletal structure. The optical array sends signals to a portable two-photon microscope that is about the size of two decks of cards. This microscope can be strapped to the part of the body where doctors wish to observe the striated muscle fibers and individual motor units in question.
Researchers hope to use this technology to examine the real-time effects of certain therapies on neuromuscular function. They will also be able to measure the degradation over time of muscle forces in patients with motor neuron disease (MND). Observing sarcomere dynamics on such a small scale might help physicians find better treatments for MNDs, sports injuries, and post-stroke issues in the future.