Avian digital flexor tendons were used with a device to apply load ex vivo to study the effects on deoxyribonucleic acid and collagen synthesis when cell to cell communication is blocked. Flexor digitorum profundus tendons from the middle toe of 52-day-old White Leghorn chickens were excised and used as nonloaded controls, or clamped in the jaws of a displacement controlled tissue loading device and mechanically loaded for 3 days at a nominal 0.65% elongation at 1 Hz for 8 hours per day with 16 hours rest. Tendon samples were radiolabeled during the last 16 hours with 3H-thymidine to monitor deoxyribonucleic acid synthesis or with 3H-proline to radiolabel newly synthesized collagen. Cyclic loading of whole avian flexor tendons stimulated deoxyribonucleic acid and collagen synthesis, which could be blocked with octanol, a reversible gap junction blocker. Cells from human digital flexor tendon were used to populate a rectangular, three-dimensional, porous, polyester foam that could be deformed cyclically in vitro. Together, these results support the hypothesis that tendon cells must communicate to sustain growth and matrix expression and that an engineered three-dimensional construct can be used to study responses to mechanical load in vitro.

Full-text article