Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears are often referred to as the worst nightmare for professional athletes. These common and serious knee injuries can sink careers due to muscle atrophy and ultimately lead to the development of osteoarthritis. At best, they can severely limit the ability of an athlete to perform at previous levels as a result of the surgical interventions and prolonged rehabilitation typically required in such cases. However, a research team from the University of Michigan Health System has identified a promising new drug target, raising hopes for a treatment preventing the weakening or loss of muscle tissue occurring as a result of an ACL tear.
The drug target in question is myostatin – a hormone that hinders muscle growth and appears responsible for the muscle damage that follows ACL tears. The findings of the study, which have been published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, open the door to a potential treatment for the prevention of muscle loss that occurs after an ACL tear and subsequent joint replacement.
Dr Christopher L. Mendias, lead author of the report, noted that several technological advances had made it possible to improve recovery outcomes after an ACL tear. However, most patients still suffer from 30% to 40% muscle weakness, which seriously limits their ability to resume sporting activities at previous levels of intensity. A potential therapy targeting myostatin would represent a major step in the restoration of athletic and functional abilities in the short term and the prevention of osteoarthritis in the long term, Dr Mendias added.