Background: Although the prevalence of inspiratory muscle strength training has increased in clinical medicine, its effect on diaphragm fiber remodeling is not well-understood and no relevant animal respiratory muscle strength training-rehabilitation experimental models exist. We tested the postulate that intrinsic transient tracheal occlusion (ITTO) conditioning in conscious animals would provide a novel experimental model of respiratory muscle strength training, and used significant increases in diaphragmatic fiber cross-sectional area (CSA) as the primary outcome measure. We hypothesized that ITTO would increase costal diaphragm fiber CSA and further hypothesized a greater duration and magnitude of occlusions would amplify remodeling.
Methodology/principal findings: Sprague-Dawley rats underwent surgical placement of a tracheal cuff and were randomly assigned to receive daily either 10-minute sessions of ITTO, extended-duration, 20-minute ITTO (ITTO-20), partial obstruction with 50% of cuff inflation pressure (ITTO-PAR) or observation (SHAM) over two weeks. After the interventions, fiber morphology, myosin heavy chain composition and CSA were examined in the crural and ventral, medial, and dorsal costal regions. In the medial costal diaphragm, with ITTO, type IIx/b fibers were 26% larger in the medial costal diaphragm (p<0.01) and 24% larger in the crural diaphragm (p<0.05). No significant changes in fiber composition or morphology were detected. ITTO-20 sessions also yielded significant increases in medial costal fiber cross-sectional area, but the effects were not greater than those elicited by 10-minute sessions. On the other hand, ITTO-PAR resulted in partial airway obstruction and did not generate fiber hypertrophy.
Conclusions/significance: The results suggest that the magnitude of the load was more influential in altering fiber cross-sectional area than extended-duration conditioning sessions. The results also indicated that ITTO was associated with type II fiber hypertrophy in the medial costal region of the diaphragm and may be an advantageous experimental model of clinical respiratory muscle strength training.