New Therapy Shows Promise for Treating Equine Tendon Injuries

Researchers found horses treated for superficial digital flexor tendonitis with a new biologic product recovered better than those that received a placebo.
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treating tendon injuries in horses
Treated horses were more likely to return to their pre-injury performance level, race in and win significantly more races, and experience new episodes of tendonitis less frequently than placebo horses did. | Photo: iStock

Imagine your horse’s injured tendon as a crushed beehive. With the structure destroyed and flattened, nothing can live between its walls. But as the bees rebuild the matrix of their hive, making strong structures again, their young can thrive in the spaces and grow. And the hive becomes functional once more.

Tendons are sort of like that. Their living cells are surrounded by a structure called matrix. But that matrix can get destroyed during an injury, and if the matrix isn’t rebuilt, the tendon cells will never regain their strength—and the tendon won’t be as functional.

It’s on that basis that a group of French researchers has developed and tested a new “biological” therapy for helping tendons heal. Tendon matrices have a special sugar (a polysaccharide) called heparan sulfate that plays a major role in matrix architecture—bridging and protecting proteins, storing and protecting special molecules, etc

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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