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Severe muscle wasting is a debilitating condition in critically ill intensive care unit (ICU) patients, characterized by general muscle weakness and dysfunction, resulting in a prolonged mobilization, delayed weaning from the ventilator, and a decreased quality of life post-ICU. The mechanisms underlying limb muscle weakness in ICU patients are complex and involve the impact of primary disease, but also factors common to critically ill ICU patients such as sepsis, mechanical ventilation (MV), immobilization, and systemic administration of corticosteroids (CS). These factors may have additive negative effects on skeletal muscle structure and function, but their respective role alone remain unknown. The primary aim of this study was to examine how CS administration potentiates ventilator and immobilization-related limb muscle dysfunction at the gene level. Comparing biceps femoris gene expression in pigs exposed to MV and CS for 5 days with only MV pigs for the same duration of time showed a distinct deregulation of 186 genes according to microarray. Surprisingly, the decreased force-generation capacity at the single muscle fiber reported in response to the addition of CS administration in mechanically ventilated and immobilized pigs was not associated with an additional upregulation of proteolytic pathways. On the other hand, an altered expression of genes regulating kinase activity, cell cycle, transcription, channel regulation, oxidative stress response, cytoskeletal, sarcomeric, and heat shock protein, as well as protein synthesis at the translational level, appears to play an additive deleterious role for the limb muscle weakness in immobilized ICU patients.


Sudhakar Aare, Peter Radell, Lars I Eriksson, Hazem Akkad, Yi-Wen Chen, Eric P Hoffman, Lars Larsson. Effects of corticosteroids in the development of limb muscle weakness in a porcine intensive care unit model. Physiological genomics. 2013 Apr 16;45(8):312-20

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PMID: 23429211

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