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78 m a s s a g e & b o d y wo r k j a n u a r y/ fe b r u a r y 2 0 2 3 Whatever style of bodywork you do, you're obviously aware of the potential effect it can have on muscle tissue/tonus, range of motion, nervous-system regulation, hydration, pain management, and even constipation. 1 What would you think if I told you the potential effects can impact each individual cell in your body? INTO THE CELL Just as your body has a specific structure, so do your cells. Because of the oversimplified diagrams we saw in grade school, we tend to think of cells as round, microscopic balls, but their shape is much more varied than that. The shape is determined and maintained by a network of three interlinked proteins, including actin and myosin, which are collectively known as the cytoskeleton. However, cells respond to not only chemical changes in their environment (like the caffeine in the green tea I drank to keep focused while writing this article), but also mechanical changes in their environment. These responses to pressure and vibrations can create a host of electrochemical changes in the cell. 2 And this, believe it or not, is where practitioners can make a difference. Like a satellite with numerous antennae orbiting Earth, every cell in your body is similarly festooned with cell receptors that "listen" for different types of messages. The receptor of most interest to us is the integrin. Integrins are incredibly social, connecting cells to other cells and to the individual collagen fibers in the f luid and fiber matrix that we in the macro-bodywork world call fascia. But in the microbiology world, they are the extracellular matrix (ECM). Integrins are transmembrane receptors, meaning they cross intercellular and extracellular boundaries for the purpose of communication. Integrins are found on nearly every cell in your body, but curiously seem to be absent on cancer cells. They also connect to larger intercellular macromolecules called focal adhesions (more on that in a bit). Integrins are sensors for mechanical and physiological stress, as you might imagine, since they're linked to the ECM. They are further linked to the actin filaments in your cytoskeleton and can transmit physical stresses, both good and bad, that cause the cell to change its shape and behavior. Cell yoga, anyone? Furthermore, the integrins have a fibrillar network that goes all the way to the nucleus of the cell. Stimulation of the integrins can hasten both cell growth and death, motility, and even gene expression. This process of creating electrochemical changes in the cell via changes in external pressure and tension in the ECM is called mechanotransduction, 3 a process that happens at the speed of sound (see image). To summarize, the nucleus of every cell in your body is connected via the integrins to your fascial web. That's about 100 trillion cells for the average adult. All connected. When stimulated, the integrin induces mechanotransduction, which affects the cell's quality of life at a rate that is almost three times faster than your nervous system. INTO THE LAB One of my favorite studies that helped establish the cellular evidence base necessary to help explain the positive benefits of manual therapy was done by inducing repetitive motion strain (RMS) in a living cell culture. 4 Cells were placed on a f lexible petri dish that could be subject to the same mechanical stress over and over for eight hours. For example, take a 78 m a s s a g e & b o d y wo r k j a n u a r y/ fe b r u a r y 2 0 2 3 Mechanotransduction Impacting the Body Down to the Cellular Level By David Lesondak critical thinking | BODY OF WONDER ECM Integrins Talin Myosin II F-actin Nesprin 1 Nesprin 2 SUN 2 Emerin Titin Actin Chromatin Gene activation? Nucleolus (rRNA?) SUN 1 α-actin Stress wave propagation ~1ms Collagen Growth factor Plasma membrane Nuclear envelope Nucleus ß α Reproduced with permission of David Lesondak through PLSclear.

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