Background: Collagen fiber re-alignment and uncrimping are two postulated mechanisms of tendon structural response to load. Recent studies have examined structural changes in response to mechanical testing in a postnatal development mouse supraspinatus tendon model (SST), however, those changes in the mature mouse have not been characterized. The objective of this study was to characterize collagen fiber re-alignment and crimp behavior throughout mechanical testing in a mature mouse SST.
Method of approach: A tensile mechanical testing set-up integrated with a polarized light system was utilized for alignment and mechanical analysis. Local collagen fiber crimp frequency was quantified immediately following the designated loading protocol using a traditional tensile set up and a flash-freezing method. The effect of number of preconditioning cycles on collagen fiber re-alignment, crimp frequency and mechanical properties in midsubstance and insertion site locations were examined.
Results: Decreases in collagen fiber crimp frequency were identified at the toe-region of the mechanical test at both locations. The insertion site re-aligned throughout the entire test, while the midsubstance re-aligned during preconditioning and the test's linear-region. The insertion site demonstrated a more disorganized collagen fiber distribution, lower mechanical properties and a higher cross-sectional area compared to the midsubstance location.
Conclusions: Local collagen fiber re-alignment, crimp behavior and mechanical properties were characterized in a mature mouse SST model. The insertion site and midsubstance respond differently to mechanical load and have different mechanisms of structural response. Additionally, results support that collagen fiber crimp is a physiologic phenomenon that may explain the mechanical test toe-region.
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