A possible link between loading, inflammation and healing: Immune cell populations during tendon healing in the rat

Sci Rep. 2016 Jul 13;6:29824. doi: 10.1038/srep29824.


Loading influences tendon healing, and so does inflammation. We hypothesized that the two are connected. 48 rats underwent Achilles tendon transection. Half of the rats received Botox injections into calf muscles to reduce mechanical loading. Cells from the regenerating tissue were analyzed by flow cytometry. In the loaded group, the regenerating tissue contained 83% leukocytes (CD45(+)) day 1, and 23% day 10. The M1/M2 macrophage ratio (CCR7/CD206) peaked at day 3, while T helper (CD3(+)CD4(+)) and Treg cells (CD25(+) Foxp3(+)) increased over time. With Botox, markers associated with down-regulation of inflammation were more common day 5 (CD163, CD206, CD25, Foxp3), and M1 or M2 macrophages and Treg cells were virtually absent day 10, while still present with full loading. The primary variable, CCR7/CD206 ratio day 5, was higher with full loading (p = 0.001) and the Treg cell fraction was lower (p < 0.001). Free cage activity loading is known to increase size and strength of the tendon in this model compared to Botox. Loading now appeared to delay the switch to an M2 type of inflammation with more Treg cells. It seems a prolonged M1 phase due to loading might make the tendon regenerate bigger.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Achilles Tendon / pathology
  • Achilles Tendon / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Antigens, CD / immunology
  • Female
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Macrophages / pathology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Regeneration / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / pathology
  • Tendon Injuries / immunology*
  • Tendon Injuries / pathology
  • Weight-Bearing


  • Antigens, CD