Hypercholesterolemia increases supraspinatus tendon stiffness and elastic modulus across multiple species

J Shoulder Elbow Surg. 2013 May;22(5):681-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jse.2012.07.008. Epub 2012 Sep 13.


Background: More than one-quarter of Americans have hypercholesterolemia and/or are being treated with cholesterol-lowering medications. Given the systemic nature of hypercholesterolemia and remaining questions regarding its effect on tendons at a local level, we sought to assess the utility of small versus large animal model systems for translational studies by exploring the effect of hypercholesterolemia on supraspinatus tendon elastic mechanical properties in mice, rats, and monkeys. We hypothesized that stiffness and elastic modulus would be increased in tendons across species due to hypercholesterolemia.

Materials and methods: Supraspinatus tendons from normal (control) and high-cholesterol (HC) mice, rats, and monkeys were used in this study. After dissection, tendons were geometrically measured and tensile tested with tissue strain measured optically.

Results: Overall, HC animals had significantly altered plasma lipid profiles. Biomechanical testing showed a significant increase in stiffness compared with control in HC mice and rats, as well as a nonsignificant trend for HC monkeys. Elastic modulus was also significantly increased in HC mice and monkeys, with HC rats showing a trend.

Conclusions: The consistency of our findings across species and between small and large animals, combined with the fact that the aged mice were exposed to lifelong hypercholesterolemia (compared with rats and nonhuman primates, which were fed HC diets), suggests that these increased properties may be inherent to the effect of hypercholesterolemia on supraspinatus tendon rather than due to an effect of cumulative exposure time to the effects of HC. Further investigation is needed to confirm this concept.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomechanical Phenomena
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Elastic Modulus / physiology*
  • Hypercholesterolemia / complications
  • Hypercholesterolemia / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Tendons / physiopathology*