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Myofibroblasts in the healing lapine medial collateral ligament: possible mechanisms of contraction

Faryniarz, D. A.
Yannas, I. V.
Spector, M.
Published in Journal of Orthopaedic Research. 1996, vol. 14, no. 2, p. 228-237
Abstract The specific objective of this study was to determine the chronology of the appearance of the myofibroblast in the healing ligament. The overall goal of our work is to elucidate the cellular mechanism of contraction in this tissue. The myofibroblast has been found to be responsible for wound contraction in many tissues and to be the cause of the contracture in several pathological conditions. This cell type contains the actin isoform previously thought to be unique to smooth muscle cells and displays certain characteristic features at the ultrastructural level. In 26 New Zealand White male rabbits, the right medial collateral ligament was transected, whereas the left medial collateral ligament received a sham operation. The central third of the ligament (ligament scar tissue) was evaluated at 2, 3, 6, 8, 10, and 12 weeks postoperatively by immunohistochemical techniques, transmission electron microscopy, and Western blot analyses. Three other rabbits served as anatomic controls. During the early reparative phase (2 and 3 weeks after transection), there was an increase in the number of cells containing alpha-smooth muscle actin as well as augmentation of the alpha-smooth muscle actin content within each cell--a finding attributed to smooth muscle cells and pericytes associated with neovascularity. No myofibroblasts were detected at this stage, immediately postoperatively, or in the sham-operation controls. Ligaments in the remodeling phase of healing (6, 8, 10, and 12 weeks) exhibited alpha-smooth muscle actin in fibroblasts (myofibroblasts) as well as in vascular pericytes and smooth muscle cells. During this stage of healing, transmission electron microscopy demonstrated an increase in the number of cells displaying myofibroblastic features. It was estimated that at 12 weeks of healing 10% of the cells at the site of injury were myofibroblasts. This is the first definitive finding of myofibroblasts in the injury site of the healing ligament, to our knowledge. The appearance of myofibroblasts in the 6-12 week healing period, the interval during which the ligament has been shown to contract in studies by other investigators, is a rationale for a hypothesis that a cellular contractile apparatus comprising alpha-smooth muscle actin (i.e., the myofibroblast) may contribute to the recovery of original ligament length (and normal in situ strain).
Keywords Actins/analysisAnimalsBlotting, WesternFibroblasts/ physiology/ultrastructureImmunohistochemistryMaleMedial Collateral Ligament, Knee/chemistry/pathology/ physiopathologyMicroscopy, ElectronRabbitsWound Healing
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PMID: 8648500
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