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J Orthop Res. 2009 Feb;27(2):274-80. doi: 10.1002/jor.20657.

Joint immobilization reduces the expression of sensory neuropeptide receptors and impairs healing after tendon rupture in a rat model.

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Section of Orthopaedics and Sports Medicine, Department of Molecular Medicine and Surgery, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.


Healing after mobilization versus immobilization was assessed in a model of rat Achilles tendon rupture, by RT-PCR at 8 and 17 days and by histological analyses at 14 and 28 days postrupture. The expression of mRNA for extracellular matrix (ECM) molecules (collagen type I and type III, versican, decorin, and biglycan), and the subjective histological maturation of the healing area were analyzed. Effects of immobilization on healing were related to changes in the peripheral expression of substance P (NK(1))- and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CRLR and RAMP-1)- receptors. At 8 days postinjury, mRNA levels for ECM molecules were equal in both groups. However, by day 17, the ECM mRNA expression in the mobilized group had increased up to approximately 14x that of the immobilized group, which were comparable to intact tendon values. Histological analysis confirmed a higher regenerating activity in the mobilized group, with an increased amount of blood vessels, fibroblasts, and new collagen. The expression of sensory neuropeptide receptors in the mobilized group exhibited a significant increase from 8 to 17 days postinjury similar to the increased ECM mRNA expression, whereas the immobilized group at 17 days exhibited levels comparable to the intact tendon values. Therefore, immobilization postrupture appears to hamper tendon healing, a process which may prove to be directly linked to a downregulated peripheral sensitivity to sensory neuropeptide stimulation.

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