Repetitive strain or 'overuse' is thought to be a major factor contributing to the development of tendinopathy. The aims of our study were to develop a novel cyclic loading system, and use it to investigate the effect of defined loading conditions on the mechanical properties and gene expression of isolated tendon fascicles. Tendon fascicles were dissected from bovine-foot extensors and subjected to cyclic tensile strain (1 Hz) at 30% or 60% of the strain at failure, for 0 h (control), 15 min, 30 min, 1 h, or 5 h. Post loading, a quasi-static test to failure assessed damage. Gene expression at a selected loading regime (1 h at 30% failure strain) was analyzed 6 h post loading by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction. Compared with unloaded controls, loading at 30% failure strain took 5 h to lead to a significant decrease in failure stress, whereas loading to 60% led to a significant reduction after 15 min. Loading for 1 h at 30% failure strain did not create significant structural damage, but increased Collagen-1-alpha-chain-1 and interleukin-6 (IL6) expression, suggesting a role of IL6 in tendon adaptation to exercise. Correlating failure properties with fatigue damage provides a method by which changes in gene expression can be associated with different degrees of fatigue damage.
© 2011 John Wiley & Sons A/S.