At present, there is a lack of well-validated protocols that allow for the analysis of the mechanical properties of muscle and tendon tissues. Further, there are no reports regarding characterization of mouse skeletal muscle and tendon mechanical properties in vivo using elastography thereby limiting the ability to monitor changes in these tissues during disease progression or response to therapy. Therefore, we sought to develop novel protocols for the characterization of mechanical properties in musculotendinous tissues using atomic force microscopy (AFM) and ultrasound elastography. Given that TIEG1 knockout (KO) mice exhibit well characterized defects in the mechanical properties of skeletal muscle and tendon tissue, we have chosen to use this model system in the present study. Using TIEG1 knockout and wild-type mice, we have devised an AFM protocol that does not rely on the use of glue or chemical agents for muscle and tendon fiber immobilization during acquisition of transversal cartographies of elasticity and topography. Additionally, since AFM cannot be employed on live animals, we have also developed an ultrasound elastography protocol using a new linear transducer, SLH20-6 (resolution: 38 µm, footprint: 2.38 cm), to characterize the musculotendinous system in vivo. This protocol allows for the identification of changes in muscle and tendon elasticities. Such innovative technological approaches have no equivalent to date, promise to accelerate our understanding of musculotendinous mechanical properties and have numerous research and clinical applications.
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