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The cellular biology of flexor tendon adhesion formation: an old problem in a new paradigm.

American Journal Of Pathology
Publication Date
  • Biology
  • Chemistry


Intrasynovial flexor tendon injuries of the hand can frequently be complicated by tendon adhesions to the surrounding sheath, limiting finger function. We have developed a new tendon injury model in the mouse to investigate the three-dimensional cellular biology of intrasynovial flexor tendon healing and adhesion formation. We investigated the cell biology using markers for inflammation, proliferation, collagen synthesis, apoptosis, and vascularization/myofibroblasts. Quantitative immunohistochemical image analysis and three-dimensional reconstruction with cell mapping was performed on labeled serial sections. Flexor tendon adhesions were also assessed 21 days after wounding using transmission electron microscopy to examine the cell phenotypes in the wound. When the tendon has been immobilized, the mouse can form tendon adhesions in the flexor tendon sheath. The cell biology of tendon healing follows the classic wound healing response of inflammation, proliferation, synthesis, and apoptosis, but the greater activity occurs in the surrounding tissue. Cells that have multiple "fibripositors" and cells with cytoplasmic protrusions that contain multiple large and small diameter fibrils can be found in the wound during collagen synthesis. In conclusion, adhesion formation occurs due to scarring between two damaged surfaces. The mouse model for flexor tendon injury represents a new platform to study adhesion formation that is genetically tractable.

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