Increased nerve growth factor expression in the synovial tissues of patients with rotator cuff tears

Ryo Tazawa, Tomonori Kenmoku*, Kentaro Uchida, Lars Arendt-Nielsen, Naoshige Nagura, Mitsufumi Nakawaki, Toshihide Matsumoto, Gen Inoue, Hiroto Takeuchi, Takenori Jimbo, Toshiyuki Nakazawa, Michinari Fukuda, Masashi Takaso

*Corresponding author

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Rotator cuff tears (RCTs) are often associated with severe shoulder pain. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, not recommended for long-term use, do not effectively manage RCT-induced pain, resulting in reduced quality of life. To improve management, a better understanding of the fundamental properties of RCT pain is needed. Here, we aimed to compare the expression levels of nerve growth factor (NGF) and cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) mRNA in the synovial tissues of patients with RCT-induced pain and patients with non-painful recurrent shoulder dislocation (RSD).

The study included 32 patients with RCT who underwent arthroscopic rotator cuff repair and 28 patients with non-painful RSD who underwent arthroscopic Bankart repair. Synovial tissue samples were harvested from subacromial bursa and rotator interval of RCT patients and from the rotator interval of RSD patients. Samples were analyzed quantitatively expression levels for NGF and COX2 mRNA and NGF protein.

NGF mRNA and protein levels were significantly higher in the rotator interval of RCT patients than in the rotator interval of RSD patients (p = 0.0017, p = 0.012, respectively), while COX2 mRNA levels did not differ significantly between the two patient groups. In RCT patients, COX2 mRNA was more highly expressed in the rotator interval than in the subacromial bursa (p = 0.038), whereas the mRNA and protein levels of NGF did not differ between the two tissues. The expression of NGF mRNA in the synovium of the rotator interval was significantly correlated with the numeric rating scale of pain (ρ = 0.38, p = 0.004).

NGF mRNA and protein levels were elevated in patients with painful RCT compared with those in patients with non-painful RSD, whereas COX-2 levels were comparable in the two patient groups. These findings provide insights into novel potential strategies for clinical management of RCT.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecular Pain
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

This investigation was supported in part by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS) Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (KAKENHI) [Grant No. 18K16633]. The Center for Neuroplasticity and Pain (CNAP) is supported by the Danish National Research Foundation (DNRF121).


  • nerve growth factor
  • cyclooxygenase-2
  • rotator cuff tears
  • recurrent shoulder dislocation

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'Increased nerve growth factor expression in the synovial tissues of patients with rotator cuff tears'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this