The mechanisms by which tendon strength is established during growth and development and restored following injury are not completely understood and are likely to be complex, multifactorial processes. Several studies examining the relationship between mechanical behavior and ultrastructural characteristics of tendons and ligaments during growth and maturation suggest that collagen fibril diameter is strongly correlated with tendon strength. Because of the similarities between development and repair processes of musculoskeletal tissues, increases in tendon strength during healing may be related to increases in fibril ultrastructural parameters such as fibril size, numerical density, and area fraction. In this study, we compared murine Achilles tendons at various time points after tenotomy with sham-operated controls in tensile tests to failure and examined tendons using electron microscopy to assess collagen fibril ultrastructure. We found that in the 6-week period following Achilles tenotomy, fibril mean diameter remained significantly smaller than sham-side diameter by a factor of 2-3. Despite the persistently small fibril size, increasing numerical density resulted in a gradual increase in fibril area fraction. Biomechanical strength did not reach that of intact tendons until some time between 5 and 7 weeks, approximately the same time period when fibril area fraction began to approach sham values. These data suggest that parameters other than collagen fibril size are most responsible for increased tendon strength during healing.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
- Molecular Biology
- Cell Biology