Genetic Influences on Joint Contractures Secondary to Immobilization


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Abstract

The primary research question of this study queries whether, beyond environmental conditions, genetic factors affect the development of joint contractures. We hypothesized that intrinsic genetic factors influence the severity of joint contractures developing secondary to joint immobilization. Forty rats from four inbred rat strains had one leg immobilized in knee flexion for 4 weeks. The contracture was measured mechanically as the lack of range of motion to a standardized torque. Using the contralateral leg as a control, the average severity of the contracture could be calculated and compared between strains. All immobilized legs presented knee contractures after 4 weeks of immobilization. Two strains (Dark Agouti and Fisher 344) showed a larger mean knee contracture than those of the two other rat strains (Augustus Copenhagen Irish and Brown Norway). Environmental factors, such as immobility, are usually identified as a cause of a joint contracture. These results demonstrate that, in addition to mechanical factors in the environment of a joint, intrinsic genetic factors participate in the process leading to joint contracture. This demonstration has important consequences for directing future research and may lead to interventions to help patients at risk of developing joint contractures.

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