Scientists unlock clues to tendon ageing in horses

© Mike Bain
© Mike Bain

Scientists have identified important protein changes involved in the ageing process in horse tendons.

The University of Liverpool researchers believe their work opens up the possibility of better treatment for humans.

Their study, the findings of which were published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, used samples taken from young and old horses, which have similar tendon properties to those of humans

It has been understood for many years that tendons are prone to injury and that this likelihood increases as they age. Why this happens is poorly understood

Now, using samples taken from young and old horses, the researchers, which also included scientists from Queen Mary University of London, performed a range of tests to profile the types, quantities and proportions of proteins present in tendons.

They found marked differences in the proteins in young and old horses.

“Injured tendons are extremely painful and limiting in humans, and we know that this increases as we get older,” explains Professor Peter Clegg, the chair of Musculoskeletal Biology.

“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.

“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,” Clegg says.

The study is titled “Proteomic analysis reveals age-related changes in tendon matrix composition, with age-and injury-specific matrix fragmentation”.

It was funded by the Horserace Betting Levy Board, Wellcome Trust and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.


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