SOME ground-breaking research in Scotland at the University of Glasgow is developing a promising new treatment for tendon problems in humans and horses.

The work has now received a £1m investment from Mediqventure and the Scottish Investment Bank, the investment arm of Scottish Enterprise, to take the programme further.

The spin-out business, Causeway Therapeutics, is developing therapies for tendon injuries and disorders, collectively known as tendinopathies. These are extremely common, accounting for between 30 and 50% of all sporting injuries and feature high up on the list of tendon problems in sports horses.

Working in the laboratory of Professor Iain McInnes, at the University of Glasgow, Causeway’s co-founders, Dr Derek Gilchrist and Neal Millar, discovered that a single microRNA-miR29a plays a key role in regulating the production of collagens, the proteins that give tendons their strength. Replacement of Type I collagen with Type III collagen is characteristic of tendinopathy.

The new product which was developed as a result of this, TenoMiR, is a replacement for the natural miR29a that is depleted in tendinopathy.

Dr Gilchrist said: “Translating our detailed understating of the molecular processes driving tendinopathy into a promising therapy has been a true multidisciplinary collaboration between scientists, surgeons and veterinarians in Glasgow and internationally.”

This is a completely novel approach to tendon disease and Causeway is also developing an analogous therapy for horses suffering tendinopathy. The condition affects 10-30% of competitive and working horses and, currently, the most common therapeutic option is a long period of box rest that only helps in 50% of cases.

In addition to being a significant welfare issue for the horse, equine tendinopathy is a substantial financial and practical burden on the owners. Initial studies of EquiMiR in horses have shown significantly improved tendon healing, compared to untreated animals.