Objective To determine whether there are objective findings of tendinosis in a rabbit tendinopathy model on exercised and contralateral (non-exercised) Achilles tendons.
Design Four groups of six New Zealand white rabbits per group were used. The animals of one (control) group were not subjected to exercise/stimulation.
Interventions Animals were subjected to a protocol of electrical stimulation and passive flexion–extension of the right triceps surae muscle every second day for 1, 3 or 6 weeks.
Main Outcome Measures Tenocyte number and vascular density were calculated. Morphological evaluations were also performed as well as in-situ hybridisation for vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) messenger RNA.
Results There was a significant increase in the tenocyte number after 3 and 6 weeks of exercise, but not after 1 week, in comparison with the control group. This was seen in the Achilles tendons of both legs in experimental animals, including the unexercised limb. The pattern of vascularity showed an increase in the number of tendon blood vessels in rabbits that had exercised for 3 weeks or more, compared with those who had exercised for 1 week or not at all. VEGF-mRNA was detected in the investigated tissue, with the reactions being more clearly detected in the tendon tissue with tendinosis-like changes (6-week rabbits) than in the normal tendon tissue (control rabbits).
Conclusions There were bilateral tendinosis-like changes in the Achilles tendons of rabbits in the current model after 3 weeks of training, suggesting that central neuronal mechanisms may be involved and that the contralateral side is not appropriate as a control.
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