Three dimensional microstructural network of elastin, collagen, and cells in Achilles tendons

Xin Pang, Jian Ping Wu, Garry T. Allison, Jiake Xu, Jonas Rubenson, Ming Hao Zheng, David G. Lloyd, Bruce Gardiner, Allan Wang, Thomas Brett Kirk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Similar to most biological tissues, the biomechanical, and functional characteristics of the Achilles tendon are closely related to its composition and microstructure. It is commonly reported that type I collagen is the predominant component of tendons and is mainly responsible for the tissue's function. Although elastin has been found in varying proportions in other connective tissues, previous studies report that tendons contain very small quantities of elastin. However, the morphology and the microstructural relationship among the elastic fibres, collagen, and cells in tendon tissue have not been well examined. We hypothesize the elastic fibres, as another fibrillar component in the extracellular matrix, have a unique role in mechanical function and microstructural arrangement in Achilles tendons. It has been shown that elastic fibres present a close connection with the tenocytes. The close relationship of the three components has been revealed as a distinct, integrated and complex microstructural network. Notably, a “spiral” structure within fibril bundles in Achilles tendons was observed in some samples in specialized regions. This study substantiates the hierarchical system of the spatial microstructure of tendon, including the mapping of collagen, elastin and tenocytes, with 3-dimensional confocal images.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1203-1214
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Orthopaedic Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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