Response to mechanical loading in healing tendons
Sammanfattning: Ruptured tendons heal faster if they are exposed to mechanical loading. Loading creates deformation of the extracellular matrix and cells, which give rise to intracellular signalling, increased gene expression and protein synthesis. The effects of loading have been extensively studied in vitro, and in intact tendons in vivo. However, the response to loading in healing tendons is less known.The general aim of this thesis was to understand more about the response to mechanical loading during tendon healing. The specific aims were to find out how short daily loading episodes could influence tendon healing, and to understand more about genes involved in tendon healing.The studies were performed using rat models. Unloading of healing tendons resulted in a weaker callus tissue. This could be reversed to some extent by short daily loading episodes. Loading induced more matrix production, making the tendons thicker and stronger, but there was no improvement in the material properties of the matrix. Lengthening is one potential adversity with early loading, during tendon healing in patients. This was also seen with continuous loading in the rat models. However, short loading episodes did not result in any lengthening, not even when loading was applied during the inflammatory phase of healing. It also appeared as loading once daily was enough to make healing tendons stronger, while loading twice daily with 8 hours interval did not give any additional effect. The strongest gene expression response to one loading episode was seen after 3 hours. The gene expression changes persisted 12 hours after the loading episode but had disappeared by 24 hours. Loading appeared to regulate genes involved in inflammation, wound healing and coagulation, angiogenesis, and production of reactive oxygen species. Inflammation-associated genes were regulated both by continuous loading and by one short loading episode. Inflammation is an important part of the healing response, but too much can be harmful. Loading might therefore have a role in fine-tuning the inflammatory response during healing.In conclusion, these studies show that short daily loading episodes during early tendon healing could potentially be beneficial for rehabilitation. Loading might have a role in regulating the inflammatory response during healing.
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