Hypercholesterolemia is a serious health problem that is associated not only with heart disease, but also tendon pathology. In high cholesterol environments (e.g. familial hyperlipidemia), lipids accumulate within the tendon extracellular matrix and form deposits called xanthomas. Lipid-related changes are known to affect several tendon mechanical properties, including stiffness and modulus, in uninjured and injured tendons, alike. Mechanisms to explain these cholesterol-related changes are multiple, including alterations in tenocyte gene and protein expression, matrix turnover, tissue vascularity, and cytokine production. Clinically, rotator cuff tear and Achilles tendon rupture are clearly associated with metabolic derangements, and elevated total cholesterol is often among the specific metabolic parameters implicated. Treatment of hypercholesterolemia using statin medications has also been shown to affect tendon properties, resulting in normalization of tendon thickness and improved tendon healing. Despite current work, the pathophysiology of lipid-related tendon pathology remains incompletely understood, and additional hypothesis-generating studies, including those incorporating whole-genome and whole-transcriptome technologies, will help to point the field in new directions.
Keywords: Hypercholesterolemia; Hyperlipidemia; Statins; Tendinopathy; Tendons; Xanthoma.