Female athletes are two-to-eight times more likely to suffer an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury than males. And while there has been speculation on possible anatomic, hormonal and neuromuscular factors that may place females at greater risk for these injuries, little research has looked specifically at the role of genetics.
For the first time, a new study identified varied female-to-male expression of ribonucleic acid (RNA) molecules leading to proteins maintaining ligament structure.
In the study, "Gene Expression Differences in Young Male and Female Ruptured Anterior Cruciate Ligaments," a biopsy of normally discarded ruptured ACL tissue was obtained during surgery from seven male and seven female young athlete patients. Biopsies were then divided into groups for microscopic (histological) and genetic analysis. Thirty-two significantly differentially expressed genes were isolated from male and female tissue, of which 14 were neither linked to the X or Y chromosome.
The 14 remaining genes were then grouped according to skeletal muscular development, function and cellular growth. In females, compared to males, the microarray analysis showed altered responses in signaling pathways that regulate cartilage and tissue growth.
The study authors believe the findings represent "the tip of the iceberg" in terms of determining the role of genetics in ACL structure and tendency toward increased ligament injury in female compared to male athletes.
Abstract to the presentation on this research can be found at: http://www.abstractsonline.com/Plan/ViewAbstract.aspx?mID=3358&sKey=47b6cfe1-82d8-4509-9b33-7f7473c13f0d&cKey=22499357-aa6a-42e8-9107-ba8e78b71386&mKey=4393d428-d755-4a34-8a63-26b1b7a349a1
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