It has been understood for many years that tendons are highly prone to injury and that this likelihood increases as they age. Why this happens is currently poorly understood. A recent study went about examining the mechanisms that cause aging in the tendons of horses and find it may be possible to design better treatment for humans.
Young and old horses have similar tendon properties to those of humans so a team of researchers performed a range of tests to profile the types, quantities and proportions of proteins present in the tendon. They found marked differences in the proteins in young and old horses, as
University of Liverpool
Chair of Musculoskeletal Biology Professor Peter Clegg explains: "Injured tendons are extremely painful and limiting in humans and we know that this increases as we get older. We're now starting to get to the 'why' of this process by showing that the proteins produced by the cells to repair damage alter as we get older."
The findings of this research also showed that certain protein fragments appear in greater quantities in older horses, suggesting that they are released as the tissue is slowly damaged over time.
In contrast, damaged tendons in younger horses were found to contain more of the proteins used in healing than the damaged samples from old horses, suggesting that healing also slows with age.
Clegg said, "This now opens up the possibility of better treatment and prevention strategies to address tendon injuries in both man and veterinary species such as the horse."