We studied the effect of spasticity-induced overload on tendons from the gracilis and semitendinosus muscles from cerebral palsy (CP) and healthy subjects (CT) stained with haematoxylineosin, Sirius red and Alcian blue. Vascularity was also characterized using an anti-CD34 antibody. Light microscopy analysis of haematoxylin-eosin stained sections revealed that the overall structure of tendons was maintained, characterized by parallel and slightly wavy collagen fibers in both CT and CP tendons. However, hypercellularity, cell rounding, increased vascularity and lipoid degeneration were observed in CP samples. Sirius red stained collagen fibers were more evident in CP tendons, suggesting an increased collagen content induced by spasticity. Alcian blue staining revealed an overall increase of glycosaminoglycans in CP tendons as observed in tendinopathy. Our results suggest that CP-induced spasticity may be considered as a chronic, persisting and repetitive loading of tendons, inducing ECM remodeling as adaptive response to increased functional demand. At the same time, the evidence of some tendinopathic-like markers in CP tendons suggests that the chronic nature of the CP condition could represent a pathologic condition, possibly leading to a transient weakness of the tissue making it more susceptible to damage from cumulative loading until an overt tendinopathy develops.
Keywords: collagen; extracellular matrix; glycosaminoglycans; spasticity; tendon.