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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2012 Sep 1;113(5):827-36. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00401.2012. Epub 2012 Jul 12.

Uphill running improves rat Achilles tendon tissue mechanical properties and alters gene expression without inducing pathological changes.

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Institute of Sports Medicine, Department of Orthopedic Surgery M81, Bispebjerg Hospital and Centre of Healthy Ageing, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark.


Overuse Achilles tendinopathy is a common and challenging problem in sports medicine. Little is known about the etiology of this disorder, and the development of a good animal model for overuse tendinopathy is essential for advancing insight into the disease mechanisms. Our aim was to test a previously proposed rat model for Achilles tendon overuse. Ten adult male Sprague-Dawley rats ran on a treadmill with 10° incline, 1 h/day, 5 days/wk (17-20 m/min) for 12 wk and were compared with 12 control rats. Histological, mechanical, and gene-expression changes were measured on the Achilles tendons after the intervention, and local tendon glucose-uptake was measured before and after the intervention with positron emission tomography. No differences were detected between runners and controls in tissue histology or in glucose uptake, indicating that tendon pathology was not induced. Greater tendon tissue modulus (P < 0.005) and failure stress/body weight (P < 0.02) in runners compared with controls further supported that tendons successfully adapted to uphill running. Several genes of interest were regulated after 12 wk of running. Expression of collagen III and insulin-like growth factor I was increased, while collagen I was unchanged, and decreases were seen in noncollagen matrix components (fibromodulin and biglycan), matrix degrading enzymes, transforming growth factor-β1, and connective tissue growth factor. In conclusion, the tested model could not be validated as a model for Achilles tendinopathy, as the rats were able to adapt to 12 wk of uphill running without any signs of tendinopathy. Improved mechanical properties were observed, as well as changes in gene-expression that were distinctly different from what is seen in tendinopathy and in response to short-term tendon loading.

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