Muscular and tendon degeneration after achilles rupture: new insights into future repair strategies
Achilles tendon rupture is a frequent injury with an increasing incidence. After clinical surgical repair, aimed at suturing the tendon stumps back into their original position, the repaired Achilles tendon is often plastically deformed and mechanically less strong than the pre-injured tissue, with muscle fatty degeneration contributing to function loss. Despite clinical outcomes, pre-clinical research has mainly focused on tendon structural repair, with a lack of knowledge regarding injury progression from tendon to muscle and its consequences on muscle degenerative/regenerative processes and function. Here, we characterize the morphological changes in the tendon, the myotendinous junction and muscle belly in a mouse model of Achilles tendon complete rupture, finding cellular and fatty infiltration, fibrotic tissue accumulation, muscle stem cell decline and collagen fiber disorganization. We use novel imaging technologies to accurately relate structural alterations in tendon fibers to pathological changes, which further explain the loss of muscle mechanical function after tendon rupture. The treatment of tendon injuries remains a challenge for orthopedics. Thus, the main goal of this study is to bridge the gap between clinicians' knowledge and research to address the underlying pathophysiology of ruptured Achilles tendon and its consequences in the gastrocnemius. Such studies are necessary if current practices in regenerative medicine for Achilles tendon ruptures are to be improved.