Cardiac muscle fiber cells are similarly highly branching, with intercalated discs connecting them at their ends. An intercalated disc enables cardiac muscle cells to contract in a wave-like fashion, allowing the heart to function as a pump. The nucleus of a cardiac muscle cell contains myofibrils similar to those found in skeletal muscle cells. However different types of proteins are present in varying amounts in cardiac and skeletal muscles. These differences are responsible for the fact that cardiac muscle can't be used in transplants without being damaged first.
Cardiac muscle cells are able to regenerate themselves when injured, like any other tissue cell. But because cardiac muscle is needed to maintain blood pressure when it regenerates, these temporary spasms often cause pain or discomfort for some time after an injury occurs.
Cardiac muscle cells are also capable of dividing without division of their nuclei, a process called "amitosis." In this case the cell divides into two identical cells, one normal and one abnormal. Because these cells have no nuclear envelope they cannot differentiate into other cells. They only divide further until they run out of energy or die.
Finally, cardiac muscle cells do not stem from embryonic tissue but rather from adult tissue. Adult tissue refers to tissue that has matured beyond the stage of development where cells divide and replicate rapidly; instead they undergo constant change and repair as we age.
A single (central) nucleus is typical of cardiac muscle cells. Cells are frequently branched and closely coupled by specialized junctions. An intercalated disc is the area where the ends of the cells link to another cell. The nucleus is located in this disc. Individual cardiac muscle cells can be seen under the microscope. They contain rod-shaped nuclei with a central cavity (doughnut-shape). These cells are attached to one another by special connections called desmosomes. Each cell is able to contract independently which is why we can move our hearts without moving our lungs.
Cardiac muscle cells do not have a typical nucleus. They contain bundles of microtubules that run through the center of the cell. These bundles connect to structures inside the cell called centrioles which function as microtubule-organizing centers. As additional microtubules grow out from these centers, they overlap and cross-link with existing microtubules to form the cellular skeleton. Near the center of each cell lies a large mass of granular material called the mitochondrion. This is the site of energy production for the cell. Outside of the cell is a structure called the sarcoplasmic reticulum which contains calcium stores for contraction. Between the sarcomere units are spaces called the interstitial tissue. This is where blood vessels enter the heart wall to supply it with oxygen and remove carbon dioxide.
Cardiac muscle cells can freely branch. An intercalated disc is a crucial feature that helps sustain the synchronized contraction of the muscle at a junction between two neighboring cells (Figure 19.2). Without this structure, the cells would not be able to communicate with each other and would thus contract independently, which would cause premature death of the heart muscle.
The intercalated disc is made up of collagen fibers that are attached to the cell membrane at either end. These structures allow electrical signals to pass from one cell to another while preventing both types of molecules from entering the cell itself. The disc also contains protein nodes called nodal junctions that coordinate the arrival of action potentials in all the connected cells. Finally, it has been suggested that hydrophobic proteins may also play a role in the formation of the disc, although this hypothesis has not yet been proven.
Physiologists have shown that the contraction of cardiac muscle cells is largely controlled by calcium ions. When an electrical signal passes into the cell through its surface membrane, calcium channels open, allowing the ions to enter the cell. This increase in intracellular calcium triggers other enzymes involved in muscle contraction, resulting in shortening of the fiber. Calcium ions return back to the extracellular space through special pumps located in the sarcoplasmic reticulum membrane of the cell.
What connects the separate heart muscle cells? Intercalated discs link the cells of the heart muscle. Desmosomes (anchoring junctions) and gap junctions are examples (communicating junctions). The walls of some blood vessels also contain musculature, but it is highly specialized septum and media layer rather than true heart muscle.
The intercalated disc is the location where cardiac muscle cells meet. Each cell has a portion called the nucleus that contains the genetic material responsible for determining cell type (nucleus). The space between the nuclei of adjacent cells contains filamentous proteins that extend into each cell and connect with similar proteins in the neighboring cell. This intercellular bridge allows electrical signals to pass from one cell to the next and cause the muscle cells of the heart to contract together in an organized way.
Discs are found at the end of every heart muscle cell. They are visible under the microscope as clear zones on either side of the nucleus. These zones contain large amounts of filamentous protein and therefore can be stained using standard histological techniques that involve applying dye to the sample and then examining it under the microscope.
At regular intervals, these fibrous bridges join with similar structures in other cardiac muscle cells to form a continuous network throughout the heart.
A key feature termed an intercalated disc marks a connection between two neighbouring cells, which helps enable synchronized muscle contraction. At the intercalated discs, sarcolemmas from neighboring cells bond together. This structure prevents diffusion of chemicals into or out of the cells while they are contracting together as one unit.
The cardiac muscle is supported by fibers called fasciculi arteriosi. These are blood vessels that contain small branches of blood vessels within the heart wall. They provide oxygen and nutrients to the cardiac muscle cells and remove their carbon dioxide waste.
The cardiac muscle is also attached to the pericardium at its upper and lower ends. The upper end attaches to the skull with tendons, while the lower end attaches to the diaphragm with ligaments. This allows the heart to expand and contract without obstruction.
The muscle cells are surrounded by a strong membrane called the sarcolemma. This provides protection for the cell against trauma and allows sodium and potassium ions to pass in and out of the cell. Inside the cell, the cytoplasm is divided into sacs called sarcoplasms. These contain myofibrils, bundles of protein fibers that function as motors during contraction. Myofibrils are made up of actin and myosin molecules.
This results in a single unit of muscle tissue known as a sarcomere. Intercalated discs are structures that link heart muscle cells. Electrical impulses are relayed from one cardiac muscle cell to another via gap junctions inside the intercalated discs. Desmosomes are another type of structure seen in intercalated discs. They provide additional strength to the disc and connect it with other cardiac muscle cells.
T-tubules are small invaginations of the plasma membrane found only on cardiac muscle cells. Their main function is to provide a pathway for the rapid transport of calcium between the sarcoplasmic reticulum and the cytosol. T-tubules also play an important role in the synchronization of the cardiac muscle cells during contraction. When activated, the t-tubule system acts as a high-speed highway for calcium ions. This allows for coordinated movement of the muscle fibers during each heartbeat.
A node is a region of concentrated nodal tissue in the heart where nerves branch out to supply blood to the surrounding muscle tissue. The nodes are located at the base of the ventricles near the root of the pulmonary artery. Nodes are important communication centers between the central nervous system and the heart because they contain synapses that transmit nerve signals from the brain to the heart and vice versa.