In studies of the effects of different training programmes, one muscle--most commonly the vastus lateralis--is used for the experiment while the contralateral muscle serves as a control, at the same time as muscle biopsies are taken from both sides. In order to increase the reliability of such studies, the sources and the magnitude of the sampling errors in the biopsy techniques need to be assessed in detail. In this study, cross-sections of whole right and left vastus lateralis muscle from six young sedentary right-handed men were prepared, and the total number and size of fibres and the proportion of the different fibre types were calculated. A significant difference (P less than 0.05-P less than 0.001) between the right and the left muscle was found for at least one of the three variables in each of the six men, but there was no systematic difference and, therefore, no significant right-left difference for the whole group. The maximum difference between the right and the left side for the mean fibre size was 25% and for the fibre type proportion 5%; these differences are much smaller than the known variation within individual muscles. In conclusion, any study involving biopsies from both the right and the left vastus lateralis may use either muscle for the experiment while the contralateral muscle serves as a control without leading to systematic sampling error, whereas the errors involved in taking small samples from each muscle are much more important to control and to reduce.
|Published - 1991