Objective To examine the effect of electroacupuncture (EA) on early post-rupture tendon repair in a rat model of Achilles tendon rupture using histological and mechanical evaluation.
Methods An Achilles tendon rupture model was prepared in 90 Wistar rats, which were randomly assigned to EA, manual acupuncture or control groups. Rats in the EA group received EA (pulse width 5 ms; stimulation frequency 50 Hz; stimulation strength 20 μA; stimulation time 20 min) daily from 1 day following model preparation until the day of assessment (either 7 or 10 days after model preparation), when the region of interest was sampled to assess tendon repair using in vitro methods. Total cell count and the number of cells staining positive for transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) and basic fibroblast growth factor (b-FGF) were measured. Tension tests were performed 10 days after model preparation to measure the maximum breaking strength of the repaired tendon.
Results Both the total cell count and the number of cells positive for b-FGF were significantly higher in the EA group (p<0.05). In the EA group only, immunostaining showed strong expression of TGF-β1 7 days after model preparation (p<0.05). Maximum breaking strength of the repaired tendon 10 days after model preparation was significantly higher in the EA group (p<0.01).
Conclusions The marked increase in cell count and growth factor expression as well as increased tendon strength in the EA group suggest that EA may be a useful method for promoting tendon repair.
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