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Discovery brings scientists step closer to understanding tendon injury

Date:
January 9, 2014
Source:
Queen Mary, University of London
Summary:
Researchers have discovered a specific mechanism that is crucial to effective tendon function, which could reveal why older people are more prone to tendon injury.

This is the scanning electron microscopy image showing helix structure in a tendon fascicle -- the subunit that makes up a tendon. Researchers from Queen Mary University of London have shown that the helix structure enables tendons to stretch and recover. Repetitive loading causes the fascicles to unwind and be less effective, triggering them to become damaged or leading to injury. The researchers also noted that aging affects the helix structure, making aged tendons more prone to injury.
Credit: Queen Mary University of London

Research led by Queen Mary University of London has discovered a specific mechanism that is crucial to effective tendon function, which could reveal why older people are more prone to tendon injury.

Tendons, such as the Achilles, connect muscle to bone, and are loaded repeatedly during movement. When exposed to particularly high loads, this can cause injury in some individuals. The risk of injury increases with age, but scientists have never fully understood why.

Tendon injury is common in horses as well as humans, and the team, working together with scientists from the University of Liverpool, University College London and the University of East Anglia, used tendons from horses already deceased to understand injury risk, and demonstrate the mechanism in action.

The research team found that fascicles -- the subunit that makes up tendons -- are coiled like a spring, or helix. They have shown that the helix structure enables tendons to stretch and recover, with results suggesting that damage to the helix stops the tendon working properly.

"The helical shape of the fascicles seems to be critical in maintaining tendon elasticity," explains co-author Dr Hazel Screen, a Reader in medical engineering at Queen Mary's School of Engineering and Materials Science.

"Repetitive loading causes the fascicles to unwind and be less effective, triggering them to become damaged or leading to injury."

The team also showed how aging affects the helix.

Co-author Dr Chavaunne Thorpe said: "The findings suggest that the helix structure is altered with age resulting in a decreased ability to withstand further loading and so making aged tendons more prone to injury."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Queen Mary, University of London. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Hazel Screen, Chavaunne Thorpe et al. Fascicles from energy-storing tendons show an age-specific response to cyclic fatigue loading. Interface, January 2014

Cite This Page:

Queen Mary, University of London. "Discovery brings scientists step closer to understanding tendon injury." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 January 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140109004001.htm>.
Queen Mary, University of London. (2014, January 9). Discovery brings scientists step closer to understanding tendon injury. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 31, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140109004001.htm
Queen Mary, University of London. "Discovery brings scientists step closer to understanding tendon injury." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140109004001.htm (accessed July 31, 2014).

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