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A pilot study on biomarkers for tendinopathy: lower levels of serum TNF-α and other cytokines in females but not males with Achilles tendinopathy.

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posted on 2022-05-06, 00:04 authored by James E Gaida, Hakan Alfredson, Sture Forsgren, Jillianne CookJillianne Cook
Background: Achilles tendinopathy is a painful musculoskeletal condition that is common among athletes, and which limits training capacity and competitive performance. The lack of biomarkers for tendinopathy limits research into risk factors and also the evaluation of new treatments. Cytokines and growth factors involved in regulating the response of tendon cells to mechanical load have potential as biomarkers for tendinopathy. Methods: This case–control study compared serum concentration of cytokines and growth factors (TNF-α, IL-1β, bFGF, PDFG-BB, IFN-γ, VEGF) between individuals with chronic Achilles tendinopathy and controls. These were measured in fasting serum from 22 individuals with chronic Achilles tendinopathy and 10 healthy controls. Results were analysed in relation to gender and physical activity pattern. Results: TNF-α concentration was lower in the entire tendinopathy group compared with the entire control group; none of the other cytokines were significantly different. TNF-α levels were nevertheless highly correlated with the other cytokines measured, in most of the subgroups. Analysed by gender, TNF-α and PDGF-BB concentrations were lower in the female tendinopathy group but not the male tendinopathy group. A trend was seen for lower IL-1β in the female tendinopathy group. Physical activity was correlated with TNF-α, PDGF-BB and IL-1β to varying extents for control subgroups, but not for the female tendinopathy group. No correlations were seen with BMI or duration of symptoms. Conclusions: This pilot study indicates a lower level of TNF-α and PDGF-BB, and to some extent IL-1β among females, but not males, in the chronic phase of Achilles tendinopathy. It is suggested that future studies on tendinopathy biomarkers analyse male and female data separately. The lack of correlation between cytokine level and physical activity in the female tendinopathy group warrants further study.


Support was obtained from the Swedish National Centre for Research in Sports (CIF) and the Faculty of Medicine, Umea University. This paper was supported by the Australian Centre for Research into Sports Injury and its Prevention, which is one of the International Research Centres for Prevention of Injury and Protection of Athlete Health supported by the International Olympic Committee.


Publication Date



BMC Sports Science, Medicine and Rehabilitation





Article Number



10p. (p. 1-10)


BioMed Central



Rights Statement

© 2016 Gaida et al. Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.