Welcome to my new regular feature - Science Byte. Since starting the new semester, I've been extremely busy with my Master's and course work. So I thought I'd incorporate that into my blogging goals (to blog more than once a day). On a regular basis, I'll post a Science Byte - a small tidbit of interesting (ok, interesting to me) information. I'll usually open up an old text book at random & tell you about the first thing I see - or maybe I'll tell you about a recent article I've read. In any case, I'll try to explain things in the simplest terms possible... which might make fellow scientists cringe a little, so I apologize in advance.
Today I've been working on my smooth muscle course work. Did you know there are 3 different types of muscle? When you think of muscle, you're most likely picturing skeletal muscle. This is the meat you eat & the muscle you control to move yourself. The other 2 types of muscle are cardiac & smooth - neither of which you can control. Cardiac muscle obviously makes up the heart whereas smooth muscle can be found throughout the body, typically surrounding tubes (like the intestines, airways & blood vessels). In terms of how they look under the microscope, skeletal muscle cells are really long and striated - you can see the stripes of their contractile machinery. Smooth muscle is organized differently: they have a spindle shape and are not striated. Cardiac muscle is sort of in between the other 2: it's striated, but is composed of smaller cells like smooth muscle.