Objectives: To compare serum levels of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMPs) between patients with a history of Achilles tendon rupture and blood donor controls, and to relate MMPs and TIMPs to mechanical properties of the tendons during healing.
Methods: More than three years after injury, we measured serum levels of MMP-1, -2, -3, -7, -8, -9 and -13 and TIMP-1 and -2 in eight patients who had suffered Achilles tendon rupture. Twelve blood donors served as controls. During the early phase of healing, the tendon modulus of elasticity was calculated from radiostereometric data and tendon cross-sectional area.
Results: Patients with a history of Achilles tendon rupture had increased levels of MMP-2 (median difference (m.d.) 10 %; p = 0.01), MMP-7 (m.d. 15 %; p = 0.02) and TIMP-2 (m.d. 36%; p = 0.02), as compared to controls. Levels of MMP-7, measured three years after injury, correlated inversely to tendon modulus of elasticity (rs = -0.83; p = 0.02), and positively to tendon elongation (rs = 0.74; p = 0.05) during the early phase of healing. There was a trend towards positive correlation between MMP-7 and cross-sectional area during the early phase of healing (rs = 0.67; p = 0.08).
Conclusions: Patients with a history of Achilles tendon rupture appear to have elevated levels of MMP-2, MMP-7 and TIMP-2 in serum. These pilot data support the view that the MMP-TIMP system is involved in tendinopathy and suggest that disturbances in proteolytic control might be generalised.
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