Photobiomodulation does not influence maturation and mildly improves functional healing of mouse achilles tendons

J Orthop Res. 2020 Aug;38(8):1866-1875. doi: 10.1002/jor.24592. Epub 2020 Jan 28.


Tendon rupture can occur at any age and is commonly treated nonoperatively, yet can result in persisting symptoms. Thus, a need exists to improve nonoperative treatments of injured tendons. Photobiomodulation (PBM) therapy has shown promise in the clinic and is hypothesized to stimulate mitochondrial-related metabolism and improve healing. However, the effect of PBM therapy on mitochondrial function during tendon maturation and healing are unknown, and its effect on tendon structure and function remain unclear. In this study, near-infrared light (980:810 nm blend, 2.5 J/cm2 ) was applied at low (30 mW/cm2 ) or high (300 mW/cm2 ) irradiance to unilateral Achilles tendons of CD-1 mice during postnatal growth (maturation) as well as adult mice with bilateral Achilles tenotomy (healing). The chronic effect of PBM therapy on tendon structure and function was determined using histology and mechanics, and the acute effect of PBM therapy on mitochondrial-related gene expression was assessed. During maturation and healing, collagen alignment, cell number, and nuclear shape were unaffected by chronic PBM therapy. We found a sex-dependent effect of PBM therapy during healing on mechanical outcomes (eg, increased stiffness and Young's modulus for PBM-treated females, and increased strain at ultimate stress for PBM-treated males). Mitochondria-related gene expression was marginally influenced by PBM therapy for both maturation and healing studies. This study was the first to implement PBM therapy during both growth and healing of the murine tendon. PBM therapy resulted in marginal and sex-dependent effects on the murine tendon. Clinical significance: PBM may be beneficial for tendon healing because functional remodeling improves without adverse effects.

Keywords: Achilles tendon; healing; low-level laser light therapy; maturation; mitochondria; mouse; photobiomodulation.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Achilles Tendon / growth & development
  • Achilles Tendon / injuries
  • Achilles Tendon / metabolism
  • Achilles Tendon / radiation effects*
  • Animals
  • Female
  • Gene Expression / radiation effects
  • Low-Level Light Therapy*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mitochondria / metabolism
  • Tendon Injuries / therapy*