Most extra-articular ligaments heal by a process that most closely resembles scar formation. Unlike normal ligaments, healed ligaments consist of a hypertrophic structure whose mass has been replaced primarily by type III collagen. This immature collagen is characterized by smaller diameter fibrils and results in a mechanically inferior structure. The compensatory processes involved in restoration of normal joint function provide an increased cross-sectional area. Nevertheless, the healed ligament often fails to provide adequate joint stability, which can lead to re-injury, a chronically lax joint, or progression to degenerative joint disease. It is imperative to obtain a basic science understanding of the fundamental biological processes that govern wound healing in the context of musculoskeletal soft tissues in order to design treatments that can improve the time course and end result of ligament healing.
Current research on ligament healing in the MRL is focused on understanding the role of the vascular inflammatory response in determining the time course and end result of ligament healing as evaluated using biomechanical measurements of joint function and ligament material properties, and correlating these measurements with gene expression. The links below describe some of our current and past research related to ligament healing.