The effect of glucocorticoids on tendon cell viability in human tendon explants

Acta Orthop. 2009 Jun;80(3):363-7. doi: 10.3109/17453670902988386.


Background and purpose: Previous studies on the culture of human tenocytes have shown that dexamethasone and triamcinolone reduce cell viability, suppress cell proliferation, and reduce collagen synthesis. However, such cell cultures lack the extracellular matrix and three-dimensional structure of normal tendons, which affects their response to stimuli. We established a human tendon explant culture system and tested the effects of dexamethasone and triamcinolone on cell viability.

Methods: Primary human tendon explant cultures were prepared from healthy hamstring tendons. Tendon strips were harvested from hamstring tendons and cultured in 24-well plates in Dulbecco's modification of Eagle's Medium (DMEM) supplemented with 2% fetal calf serum. The tendon explants were treated with 0 microM (control), 10 microM, or 100 microM dexamethasone sodium phosphate or 0 microM (control), 10 microM, or 100 microM triamcinolone acetonide in DMEM for 96 h. Cell viability was measured by Alamar blue assay before and after glucocorticoid treatment.

Results: Incubation with 10 microM and 100 microM dexamethasone reduced cell viability in human tendon explants by 35% and 45%, respectively, as compared to a 6% increase in the controls (p = 0.01, mixed-effects ANOVA). Triamcinolone at 10 microM and 100 microM reduced cell viability by 33% and 36%, respectively, as compared to a 9% increase in the controls (p = 0.07, mixed-effects ANOVA).

Interpretation: Human tendon explant cultures can be used to study the effects of glucocorticoids on human tendon. Dexamethasone and triamcinolone suppress the cell viability of human tendon in its natural 3-dimensional environment with matrix anchorage. Human tendon explant cultures provide a species-specific model for further investigation of the effects of glucocorticoids on the metabolism of the extracellular matrix of human tendon, and on its mechanical properties.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cell Survival / drug effects*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Dexamethasone / pharmacology
  • Glucocorticoids / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Tendons / cytology
  • Tendons / drug effects*
  • Tendons / metabolism
  • Triamcinolone / pharmacology


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Triamcinolone
  • Dexamethasone