Dead horses help Queen Mary scientists find secret of tendon injury

Research using parts of dead horses has uncovered a mechanism which could reveal why older people are more prone to tendon injury.

Tendons such as the Achilles connect muscle to bone and are weighed down repeatedly when a person moves, scientists in London’s East End have found.

They can cause injury under continued pressure, which is also common in horses.

Fascicles which make up tendons are coiled like a spring, or helix, enabling them to stretch and recover, scientists at London University Queen Mary campus and three other universities discovered.

The shape of the coil is critical in maintaining the spring in your step, they found while researching with tendons from horses already dead.

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Dr Hazel Screen of Queen Mary’s School of Engineering and Materials Science at Mile End explained: “Repetitive weight loading causes the fascicles to unwind and become damaged or lead to injury.”

The findings, published in the Royal Society’s Interface journal, suggest the helix alters with age with reduced ability to withstand the weight of the body, making tendons in older people more prone to injury.

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