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Human growth hormone could help repair tendon injuries

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New research could lead to improved treatments for tendon injuries such as Achilles tendinitis.

Investigators at Hospital for Special Surgery (HSS) in New York found that a hormone known as insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1) is essential for allowing tendons to adapt to physical activity and grow properly.

Tendon injuries can occur through overuse or repetitive strain and are common among athletes.

“Ruptured tendons can be catastrophic,” said senior study author Christopher Mendias, PhD, ATC, an associate scientist in the Orthopaedic Soft Tissue Research Program at HSS. “About 30% of athletes with an Achilles tendon rupture are not able to return to play, and those who do return regain about 75% of their pre-injury ability.”

In the basic science study, published in The FASEB Journal, the HSS researchers used advanced genetics techniques to remove the IGF1 gene in mouse cells and then monitored tendon growth. They found that without IGF1, tendons were smaller and didn’t adapt like they normally would.

Next, the researchers added IGF1 to tendon cells in culture to study how IGF1 affected the cells’ growth processes.

“Two of the ways that IGF1 affected tendon cells was through increasing cell division and stimulating the synthesis of new proteins,” explained first author Nathaniel Disser, BS, a research fellow at HSS.

New protein, such as collagen, is used by the body to form tendons and other connective tissues.

The study “paves the way for future research to test whether targeting IGF1 is useful for treating painful and debilitating tendon injuries,” Dr Mendias said.