Background: Participation in regular exercise and athletic activities across the lifespan is encouraged to maintain the cardiovascular system, the musculoskeletal system (muscle and bone integrity), and general well being. Prior to menopause there is an increased risk for ACL injuries, while there is increased risk of joint diseases such as knee osteoarthritis after menopause. While there is a paucity of data available regarding alterations in individual connective tissues of the knee in humans, it is possible to assess changes occurring in experimental models following surgical menopause.
Objective: To assess changes in cell metabolism which occur in the MCL, ACL, PT, lateral and medial menisci, tibial and femoral articular cartilage, and the synovium after surgical menopause in an experimental model system.
Methods: Panels of rabbits were subjected to ovariohysterectomy or sham operations and RNA from each tissue assessed for collagen, proteoglycan, proteinase, growth factor, sex hormone receptor and inflammatory mediator mRNA levels by RT-PCR.
Results: Unique alterations in cell metabolism were detected two months post-surgical menopause and the pattern of significant changes was tissue-specific (number of mRNA species altered, extent of the changes, elevation /depression of the changes).
Conclusions: Changes in cell metabolism may alter the set point for the tissues of the knee and subsequently, the functioning of the knee after menopause. Such changes may contribute to increased risk for injury and/or degenerative conditions. Further studies in pre- and post-menopausal women athletes may also shed light on whether the present findings can be extrapolated to human populations.