Cool Fact of the Day!

I was watching Grey’s Anatomy last night and a really old patient called Charlie (aka the "really old guy") dies in his wheelchair just before he’s due to check out of hospital.  When Izzy realises he’s not responding to her talk, she rushes to his side to take his pulse… by feeling his wrist.  Sigh.  What a big no-no.  The pulse on the wrist is so weak!  No doc would check for pulse on the wrist.

Anyway, I tried to justify Izzy’s actions. I said… erm, maybe she was checking for rigor mortis?  :P  Upon googling "rigor mortis", this is a cool fact I found.

Rigor mortis and the meat industry

Rigor mortis is very important in meat technology. The onset of rigor mortis and its resolution partially determines the tenderness of meat. If the post-slaughter meat is immediately chilled to 15 °C, a phenomenon known as cold shortening occurs, where the muscle shrinks to a third of its original size. This will lead to the loss of water from the meat along with many of the vitamins, minerals, and water soluble proteins. The loss of water makes the meat hard and interferes with the manufacturing of several meat products like cutlet and sausage.

Cold shortening is caused by the release of stored calcium ions from the sarcoplasmic reticulum of muscle fibers in response to the cold stimulus. The calcium ions trigger powerful muscle contraction aided by ATP molecules. To prevent cold shortening, a process known as electrical stimulation is carried out, especially in beef carcass, immediately after slaughter and skinning. In this process, the carcass is stimulated with alternating current, causing it to contract and relax, which depletes the ATP reserve from the carcass and prevents cold shortening.

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October 2008