King's College London
Online Exhibitions
The pioneering work of Professor Jean Hanson, 1919-1973

Sliding filament research at MIT, 1953-1954

image of sections of rabbit muscle showing networks of parallel lines with darker columns shading between the vertical divisionsElectron micrograph of a rabbit psoas muscle (1960)Hanson's and Huxley's collaboration crucially brought together the results of optical and electron microscopy to uncover the mystery of muscle striation patterns.

Fibre samples were obtained using new microtome equipment able to take very thin sections of muscle. This made accurate microscopy possible.

Hanson and Huxley used quantities of pyrophosphate to relax fibre samples, resulting in the dissolving of the so-called 'A-bands' - the dark cross banding that appeared at intervals along the length of muscle fibrils.

Recognising the significance of these observations, they then followed this experiment by applying other myosin-extracting solutions.

The dark 'A-bands' again disappeared. Hanson and Huxley had very quickly achieved a crucial insight into how muscles work.

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