The equine superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) is a frequently injured structure that is functionally and clinically equivalent to the human Achilles tendon (AT). Both act as critical energy-storage systems during high-speed locomotion and can accumulate exercise- and age-related microdamage that predisposes to rupture during normal activity. Significant advances in understanding of the biology and pathology of exercise-induced tendon injury have occurred through comparative studies of equine digital tendons with varying functions and injury susceptibilities. Due to the limitations of in-vivo work, determination of the mechanisms by which tendon cells contribute to and/or actively participate in the pathogenesis of microdamage requires detailed cell culture modelling. The phenotypes induced must ultimately be mapped back to the tendon tissue environment. The biology of tendon cells and their matrix, and the pathological changes occurring in the context of early injury in both horses and people are reviewed, with a particular focus on the use of various tendon cell and tissue culture systems to model these events.
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