Modulation of vascular response after injury in the rat Achilles tendon alters healing capacity

Corinne N., Riggin, Ashley B., Rodriguez, Stephanie N., Weiss, Harina A., Raja, Mengcun, Chen, Susan M., Schultz, Chandra M., Sehgal, Louis J., Soslowsky

Journal of Orthopaedic Research |

Tendons are relatively hypovascular but become hypervascular during both injury and degeneration. This is due to the angiogenic response, or the formation of new blood vessels, to tissue injury. The objective of this study was to evaluate the effect of vascular modulation in the rat Achilles tendons during healing. Fischer rats received a bilateral Achilles incisional injury followed by local injections of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), anti-VEGF antibody (B20.4-1-1), or saline either early or late during the healing process. Vascular modulation and healing were evaluated using multiple in vivo ultrasound imaging modalities, in vivo functional assessment, and ex vivo measures of tendon compositional and mechanical properties. The late delivery of anti-VEGF antibody, B20, caused a temporary reduction in healing capacity during a time point where vascularity was also decreased, and then an improvement during a later time point where vascularity was increased relative to control. However, VEGF delivery had a minimal impact on healing and vascular changes in both early and late delivery times. This study was the first to evaluate vascular changes using both in vivo imaging methods and ex vivo histological methods, as well as functional and mechanical outcomes associated with these vascular changes. Clinical significance: this study demonstrates that the alteration of vascular response through the delivery of angiogenic growth factors has the ability to alter tendon healing properties.