A pilot study on biomarkers for tendinopathy

Lower levels of serum TNF-α and other cytokines in females but not males with Achilles tendinopathy

Jamie GAIDA, Hakan Alfredson, Sture Forsgren, Jill Cook

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    Achilles tendinopathy is a painful musculoskeletal condition that is common among athletes, and which limits training capacity and competitive performance. The lack of biomarkers for tendinopathy limits research into risk factors and also the evaluation of new treatments. Cytokines and growth factors involved in regulating the response of tendon cells to mechanical load have potential as biomarkers for tendinopathy.

    This case–control study compared serum concentration of cytokines and growth factors (TNF-α, IL-1β, bFGF, PDFG-BB, IFN-γ, VEGF) between individuals with chronic Achilles tendinopathy and controls. These were measured in fasting serum from 22 individuals with chronic Achilles tendinopathy and 10 healthy controls. Results were analysed in relation to gender and physical activity pattern.

    TNF-α concentration was lower in the entire tendinopathy group compared with the entire control group; none of the other cytokines were significantly different. TNF-α levels were nevertheless highly correlated with the other cytokines measured, in most of the subgroups. Analysed by gender, TNF-α and PDGF-BB concentrations were lower in the female tendinopathy group but not the male tendinopathy group. A trend was seen for lower IL-1β in the female tendinopathy group. Physical activity was correlated with TNF-α, PDGF-BB and IL-1β to varying extents for control subgroups, but not for the female tendinopathy group. No correlations were seen with BMI or duration of symptoms.

    This pilot study indicates a lower level of TNF-α and PDGF-BB, and to some extent IL-1β among females, but not males, in the chronic phase of Achilles tendinopathy. It is suggested that future studies on tendinopathy biomarkers analyse male and female data separately. The lack of correlation between cytokine level and physical activity in the female tendinopathy group warrants further study
    Original languageEnglish
    Article number5
    Pages (from-to)1-10
    Number of pages10
    JournalBMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2016


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