Andrew A. Dunkman, Mark R. Buckleya, Michael J. Mienaltowski, Sheila M. Adams, Stephen J. Thomas, Akash Kumar, David P. Beason, Renato V. Iozzo, David E. Birk, Louis J. Soslowsky
Recent studies have demonstrated that the small leucine-rich proteoglycans (SLRPs) biglycan and decorin impact tendon development, aging and healing in mature mice. However, despite the increased risk of tendon injury in the elderly, the role of SLRPs in tendon repair has not been investigated in aged animals. Therefore, our objective was to elucidate the influences of bigylcan and decorin on tendon healing in aged mice to relate our findings to previous work in mature mice. Since the processes of aging and healing are known to interact, our hypothesis was that aging mediates the role of biglycan and decorin on tendon healing. Patellar tendons from wild-type, biglycan-null and decorin-null mice were injured at 270 days using an established model. At 3 and 6 weeks post-surgery, structural, mechanical and biochemical analyses were performed and compared to uninjured controls. Early stage healing was inferior in biglycan-null and decorin-null mice as compared to wild type. However, tendons of all genotypes failed to exhibit improved mechanical properties between 3 and 6 weeks post-injury. In contrast, in a previous investigation of tendon healing in mature (i.e., 120 day-old) mice, only biglycan-null mice were deficient in early stage healing while decorin-null mice were deficient in late-stage healing. These results confirm that the impact of SLRPs on tendon healing is mediated by age and could inform future age-specific therapies for enhancing tendon healing.