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This article has been peer reviewed. It is the author’s final published version in Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research, Volume 14, Issue 1, June 2019, Article number 172.

The published version is available at Copyright © Steplewski et al.


BACKGROUND: Increased tendon pain and tendon damage is a significant complication related to hyperlipidemia. Unlike the well-established pathogenesis associated with increased serum concentrations of total cholesterol, triglycerides, and low-density lipoprotein in atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, the role of hyperlipidemia in promoting tendon damage remains controversial and requires mechanistic clarity.

METHODS: In this study, we analyzed the consequences of hypercholesterolemia on the integrity of the collagen-based architecture of the Achilles tendon. The Achilles tendons from rabbits fed with normal-cholesterol (nCH) and high-cholesterol (hCH) diets were analyzed. We studied the morphology of tendons, distribution of lipids within their collagen-rich milieu, the relative amounts of fibrillar collagen I and collagen III, and selected biomechanical parameters of the tendons at the macroscale and the nanoscale.

RESULTS: Histological assays of hCH tendons and tenosynovium demonstrated hypercellular areas with increased numbers of macrophages infiltrating the tendon structure as compared to the nCH tendons. While Oil Red staining revealed lipid-rich deposits in the hCH tendons, hybridization of tendon tissue with the collagen hybridizing peptide (CHP) demonstrated damage to the collagen fibers. Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) spectra showed the presence of distinct peaks consistent with the presence of cholesterol ester. Additionally, the hCH tendons displayed regions of poor collagen content that overlapped with lipid-rich regions. The hCH tendons had a substantial fourfold increase in the collage III to collagen I ratio as compared to the nCH tendons. Tendons from the hCH rabbits showed poor biomechanical characteristics in comparison with control. The biomechanical changes were evident at the macrolevel and the nanolevel of tendon structure.

CONCLUSIONS: Our findings support the hypothesis that hypercholesterolemia coincides with the weakening of the tendons. It is likely that the intimate contact between collagen fibrils and cholesterol deposits contributes to the weakening of the fibrillar structure of the tendons.

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Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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