SUFFERERS of tendon injuries such as tennis elbow could be in line for new treatments.
Tendon injuries – referred to as tendinopathies – account for 30-50% of all sporting injuries and are usually caused by repetitive strain or major injury.
In some cases the damage is permanent.
This is because the body repairs tendon damage with type-3 collagen, which is inferior to the very strong type-1 collagen which makes up normal tendons. In most cases, the “temporary” type-3 is replaced by type-1 over time.
Scientists at the University of Glasgow are trialling a new therapy which they hope will help people whose type-1 collagen is not properly replaced following injury.
The trial, which follows a Scottish Enterprise grant, will use injections of small molecules that help switch the production of type-3 to type-1 collagen.
The Glasgow team have already been successful in making the switch in cultured cells in the lab and in mice.
They will now work with international collaborators to trial the treatment on horses, which also frequently suffer tendon injuries, particularly in racing.
Following this trial, the team intends to commercialise the treatments through a spin-out company called Causeway Therapeutics.
The firm will focus on bringing safe and effective medicines to human and veterinary markets.
Neal Millar, an academic consultant orthopaedic surgeon and clinical senior research fellow at the University of Glasgow, said: “Tendinopathy is essentially the result of an imbalance between collagen type-1 and type-3 and we have discovered the molecular cause.
“This breakthrough has allowed us to find a way to alter the levels of collagen type-3 in tendons, with the ultimate aim to get patients with tendon injuries better quicker.”
The research was supported by the Scottish Funding Council, Wellcome Trust and the Academy of Medical Sciences.