Researchers Unlock Clues about Aging Equine Tendons

Scientists from the University of Liverpool and Queen Mary University of London, both in England, have examined the mechanisms that cause tendon aging in horses, which could open up the possibility of better treatment for both horses and humans in the future.

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

Using samples taken from young and old horses, which have similar tendon properties to those of humans, the researchers performed a range of tests to profile the types, quantities, and proportions of proteins present in the tendon. Ultimately, the team 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," explained chair of musculoskeletal biology and professor of equine orthopaedics Peter Clegg, MA, VetMB, PhD, CertES, Dipl. EVCS, MRCVS. “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 said.

The study, "Proteomic analysis reveals age-related changes in tendon matrix composition, with age-and injury-specific matrix fragmentation," was published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. It was funded by the Horserace Betting Levy Board, Wellcome Trust, and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.