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J Orthop Res. 2012 May;30(5):713-9. doi: 10.1002/jor.21588. Epub 2011 Nov 4.

Myofibroblast cells are preferentially expressed early in a rabbit model of joint contracture.

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Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Mayo Clinic, 200 First Street S.W., Rochester, MN 55905, USA.


Studies have demonstrated increased myofibroblasts in contractures. However, the timeline is largely unknown. The aim of this study was to determine the number of myofibroblasts in contracting joint capsules at 3-time points over a 24-week period. Eighteen rabbits subjected to a surgical procedure designed to elicit a knee joint contracture were divided into three groups of six. Rabbits were sacrificed at each respective time point and myofibroblasts in the joint capsules were quantified using immunohistochemistry. The percent of myofibroblasts was significantly elevated in the operated limbs compared to the control limbs at 2 weeks (20% vs. 7%, respectively; p = 0.014). There was no difference in the percent of myofibroblasts between the operated and control limbs at 8 or 24 weeks (p = 0.96 and 0.07, respectively). The percent of myofibroblasts dropped from 20% at 2 weeks to 3.0% at 8 weeks (p < 0.001). The decrease from 8 to 24 weeks was not significant (p = 0.19). A large proportion of myofibroblasts are present in contracted joints at 2 weeks. By week 8, the proportion of myofibroblasts seem to return to normal. Interventions aimed at affecting the myofibroblast cell in order to prevent fibrosis should be instituted early.

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