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Extracellular matrix composition of the equine superficial digital flexor tendon: relationship with age and anatomical site.

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  • 1Department of Equine Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Yalelaan 12, 3584 CM Utrecht, the Netherlands.


The objectives of the present study were to test the hypotheses that: (1) the composition of the extracellular matrix of the equine superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) shows great functional similarities with articular cartilage, i.e. that significant differences exist in biochemical composition of differently loaded areas (which in the case of tendons may be more apparent as tendon shows more obvious differences than cartilage); and (2) that, as in articular cartilage, no substantial alterations in biochemical composition take place during ageing once adulthood has been attained. Tendon samples were taken from 60 adult slaughter horses from a central area at cross-section in the mid-metacarpal region and at the height of the proximal sesamoid bones (sesamoid region) of the SDFT. Contents of collagenous and non-collagenous components were determined. None of the parameters were correlated with age in either region, except for a significant increase in pentosidine cross-links with age in the sesamoid region. Between the two anatomical regions, there were significant differences in all variables, except for hydroxylysylpyridinoline cross-links. It was concluded that in the equine SDFT, similar to articular cartilage, most molecular parameters are not influenced by age in mature horses, indicating a low remodelling rate. Tendon composition is clearly different between regions, apparently reflecting different specific modes of biomechanical loading at the points sampled.

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