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Birefringence of collagen fibres in rat calcaneal tendons treated with acupuncture during three phases of healing
  1. Marcos dos Santos Almeida1,
  2. Letícia Prado Oliveira2,
  3. Cristiano Pedrozo Vieira2,
  4. Flávia Da Ré Guerra1,
  5. Edson Rosa Pimentel2
  1. 1Department of Anatomy, Biomedical Science Institute, Federal University of Alfenas—UNIFAL-MG, Alfenas, Minas Gerais, Brazil
  2. 2Department of Structural and Functional Biology, Institute of Biology, State University of Campinas—UNICAMP, Campinas, São Paulo, Brazil
  1. Correspondence to Marcos dos Santos de Almeida Department of Anatomy, Biomedical Science Institute, Federal University of Alfenas—UNIFAL-MG, Alfenas, Minas Gerais, 37130-000, Brazil; marcosfisiobr{at}


Background: Birefringence is an optical anisotropy that is investigated by polarisation microscopy, and has been valuable for the study of the oriented organisation of collagen fibres in tendons. However, the application of this technology to evaluate the effect of different acupuncture points during tendon healing has not yet been described.

Objectives To evaluate the concentration of non-collagenous proteins (NCP) and birefringence in rat calcaneal tendons following injury during the three different phases of healing: inflammatory (7th day), proliferative (14th day), and remodelling (21st day).

Methods Tendons of 120 Wistar rats were tenotomised and left untreated (teno group, n=24), treated with manual acupuncture at ST36 (ST36 group, n=24), BL57 (BL57 group, n=24) or ST36+BL57 (SB group, n=24), or treated with electroacupuncture at ST36+BL57 (EA group, n=24). Tendon samples were collected at 7, 14 and 21 days after injury (n=8 per group). NCP concentrations were measured using the Bradford method (n=4 each) and birefringence was examined using polarisation microscopy and image analysis (n=4 each). Comparison was also made with healthy (non-tenotomised) tendons in a subgroup of rats (n=4 each).

Results Manual acupuncture at ST36 and BL57 increased molecular organisation of collagen fibres on day 14 and 21 after injury. Isolated use of BL57 and ST36 also increased collagen fibre organisation when examined on day 14 and 21, respectively. No significant increase in NCP concentration was observed in any of the treated tenotomised groups.

Conclusions Acupuncture, through putative anti-inflammatory and mechanotransductor effects, may have a role in strengthening tendons and increasing resistance to re-rupture.


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