What is the Sarcoplasmic Reticulum?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Jacob Harkins
  • Last Modified Date: 19 November 2018
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The sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) is an organelle found in specific types of muscle fibers. Its function is to store calcium ions and then release them into the body, where they are absorbed when the muscles are in a relaxed position and released as the muscles contract. This organelle is a specialized type of endoplasmic reticulum that consists of a complex network of vesicles, tubules, and cisternae, all of which are present inside of cells. It helps to regulate the calcium levels within the body.

Basically made up of a system of internal membranes located in the muscle tissues of the body, the sarcoplasmic reticulum is found primarily in cardiac muscle tissue as well as the striated muscle fibers found in the skeletal system. Problems with it are chief contributors to such medical issues as heart failure.

When muscles are activated, calcium is allowed to move from the lumen of the sarcoplasmic reticulum into the cytoplasm located within the cell. A lumen refers to a cavity or space that resides within a structure normally considered tubular in shape. Cytoplasm is the thick substance that fills the inside of a cell, and it tends to have a jelly-like appearance.


The function of the calcium varies according to the types of tissue in which it is found. For instance, when it comes to skeletal muscle fibers, the release of calcium has been found to be profoundly influenced by a negative feedback system. This could include medical issues such as a faulty endocrine system.

Sarcoplasmic reticulum is an important part of the striated muscle fibers of the heart, also known as cardiac muscle fibers. When cardiac function is impaired, heart failure often develops. This occurs when the heart becomes unable to supply enough blood to meet the needs of all of the body tissues. A definitive diagnosis of heart failure can be tricky and often takes considerable time and testing to confirm.

Some of the symptoms that may suggest heart failure include shortness of breath or other difficulties in breathing. Fluid retention, or swelling, may also be an indicator that a medical professional should be consulted, as is a sudden increase in fatigue or unexplained confusion or dizziness. If diagnosed early enough, there may be treatment options that can help the patient live a longer and more productive life.


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