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Smoking Hampers Healing of the Ligament

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have just given people another reason to kick the butt by revealing that smoking interferes with ligament healing.

The researchers conducted a study on a mouse model and found that cigarette smoking impairs the recruitment of cells to the injury site and delays healing following ligament repair surgery.

The researchers looked at the mouse medial collateral ligament (MCL), a ligament that supports the knee joint in both mice and people.

MCL injuries are the most common, and are also the most common injuries seen in competitive and recreational sports.

Previous studies have demonstrated that the mouse provides a good paradigm for what happens in injured human knees.

"This is a good model for knee ligament injury, but it could be a model for ligament injuries anywhere in the body. It's likely the biology is transferable to other knee ligaments, elbow ligaments, shoulder ligaments, you name it," says co-investigator Linda J. Sandell, Ph.D., professor of orthopaedic surgery.

To look at the effects of smoking, Sandell, Wright and their colleagues used a system developed at the School of Medicine in which mice are placed inside smoking chambers six days per week.

The mice were exposed to enough passive fumes to make up for two cigarettes daily, the equivalent of a person smoking about four packs per day.

They were placed in the smoking chambers for two months prior to MCL surgery and then again after surgery to mimic the behaviour of humans who continue to smoke following an injury.

Soft tissue healing that occurs following ligament injuries occurs in stages. There is an immediate pooling of blood near the injury, the sort of hemorrhaging that will cause swelling right away. This initial response is followed by several days of inflammation, in which cells called macrophages fl
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