Blood flow restricted training leads to myocellular macrophage infiltration and upregulation of heat shock proteins, but no apparent muscle damage

Jakob L Nielsen, Per Aagaard, Tatyana A Prokhorova, Tobias Nygaard, Rune D Bech, Charlotte Suetta, Ulrik Frandsen

37 Citationer (Scopus)


KEY POINTS: Muscular contractions performed using a combination of low external loads and partial restriction of limb blood flow appear to induce substantial gains in muscle strength and muscle mass. This exercise regime may initially induce muscular stress and damage; however, the effects of a period of blood flow restricted training on these parameters remain largely unknown. The present study shows that short-term, high-frequency, low-load muscle training performed with partial blood flow restriction does not induce significant muscular damage. However, signs of myocellular stress and inflammation that were observed in the early phase of training and after the training intervention, respectively, may be facilitating the previously reported gains in myogenic satellite cell content and muscle hypertrophy. The present results improve our current knowledge about the physiological effects of low-load muscular contractions performed under blood flow restriction and may provide important information of relevance for future therapeutic treatment of muscular atrophy.

ABSTRACT: Previous studies indicate that low-load muscle contractions performed under local blood flow restriction (BFR) may initially induce muscle damage and stress. However, whether these factors are evoked with longitudinal BFR training remains unexplored at the myocellular level. Two distinct study protocols were conducted, covering 3 weeks (3 wk) or one week (1 wk). Subjects performed BFR exercise (100 mmHg, 20% 1RM) to concentric failure (BFRE) (3 wk/1 wk), while controls performed work-matched (LLE) (3 wk) or high-load (HLE; 70% 1RM) (1 wk) free-flow exercise. Muscle biopsies (3 wk) were obtained at baseline (Pre), 8 days into the intervention (Mid8), and 3 and 10 days after training cessation (Post3, Post10) to examine macrophage (M1/M2) content as well as heat shock protein (HSP27/70) and tenascin-C expression. Blood samples (1 wk) were collected before and after (0.1-24 h) the first and last training session to examine markers of muscle damage (creatine kinase), oxidative stress (total antibody capacity, glutathione) and inflammation (monocyte chemotactic protein-1, interleukin-6, tumour necrosis factor α). M1-macrophage content increased 108-165% with BFRE and LLE at Post3 (P < 0.05), while M2-macrophages increased (163%) with BFRE only (P < 0.01). Membrane and intracellular HSP27 expression increased 60-132% at Mid8 with BFRE (P < 0.05-0.01). No or only minor changes were observed in circulating markers of muscle damage, oxidative stress and inflammation. The amplitude, timing and localization of the above changes indicate that only limited muscle damage was evoked with BFRE. This study is the first to show that a period of high-frequency, low-load BFR training does not appear to induce general myocellular damage. However, signs of tissue inflammation and focal myocellular membrane stress and/or reorganization were observed that may be involved in the adaptation processes evoked by BFR muscle exercise.

TidsskriftThe Journal of physiology
Udgave nummer14
Sider (fra-til)4857-4873
Antal sider17
StatusUdgivet - 15 jul. 2017


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