Prof Helen Birch


Personal Profile

Name: Helen Birch Email:
Title: Prof Tel:
Department: Inst of Orthopaedics & Musculosk Sci Fax:
Position: Professor of Skeletal Tissue Dynamics Address: University College London, Stanmore Campus, Brockley Hill, Stanmore, HA7 4LP
Research Domain: Personalised Medicine, Stem Cells & Regenerative Medicine (Frontier Disciplines) Web Page:  


Research Description

Significant advances in the understanding of the pathobiology of tendon degeneration in relation to exercise and ageing of specific tendons. This work has identified a naturally occurring model of tendon degeneration in the racehorse. Interactions between mechanical environment and tenocyte metabolism in relation to control of molecular composition of matrix are being applied to tissue engineering of tendon contructs.

Research Activities

Functional adaptation of the musculoskeletal system and its application to Pathobiology of the skeleton

Tendon and Ligament Biology

Education Description

UCL Collaborators

Prof David Becker; Prof Nora De Leeuw; Prof Gordon Blunn; Prof Allen Goodship

External Collaborators



    • Kerns JG, Buckley K, Parker AW, Birch HL, Matousek P, Goodship AE, Hildred A (2015). The use of laser spectroscopy to investigate bone disease in King Henry VIII's sailors. Journal of Archaeological Science, 53, 516 - 520. doi:10.1016/j.jas.2014.11.013


    • Thorpe CT, Screen HRC, Clegg PD, Riley GP, Birch HL (2014). Effect of fatigue loading on structure and functional behaviour of fascicles from energy-storing tendons. Acta Biomaterialia, 10(7), 3217 - 3224. doi:10.1016/j.actbio.2014.04.008
    • Thorpe CT, Riley GP, Birch HL, Clegg PD, Screen HR (2014). Fascicles from energy-storing tendons show an age-specific response to cyclic fatigue loading.. J R Soc Interface, 11(92), 20131058 - . doi:10.1098/rsif.2013.1058
    • Thorpe CT, Riley GP, Birch HL, Clegg PD, Screen HR (2014). Effect of fatigue loading on structure and functional behaviour of fascicles from energy-storing tendons.. Acta Biomater, 10(7), 3217 - 3224. doi:10.1016/j.actbio.2014.04.008
    • Kerns JG, Gikas PD, Buckley K, Shepperd A, Birch HL, McCarthy I, Miles J, Briggs TW, Keen R, Parker AW, Matousek P, Goodship AE (2014). Evidence from Raman spectroscopy of a putative link between inherent bone matrix chemistry and degenerative joint disease.. Arthritis Rheumatol, 66(5), 1237 - 1246. doi:10.1002/art.38360
    • Thorpe CT, Udeze CP, Birch HL, Clegg PD, Screen HR (2014). Fatigue loading causes a reduction in the ability of tendon fascicles to recoil.
    • Buckley K, Kerns JG, Birch HL, Gikas PD, Parker AW, Matousek P, Goodship AE (2014). Functional adaptation of long bone extremities involves the localized "tuning" of the cortical bone composition; evidence from Raman spectroscopy.. J Biomed Opt, 19(11), 111602 - . doi:10.1117/1.JBO.19.11.111602


    • Kerns J, Gikas P, Buckley K, Birch H, McCarthy I, Miles J, Briggs T, Keen R, Parker A, Matousek P, Goodship A (2013). Raman spectroscopy reveals evidence for early bone changes in osteoarthritis.
    • Birch HL, Brama PAJ, Firth EC, Goodship AE, Rivero JLL, van Weeren R (2013). The response of musculoskeletal tissues to exercise. In Back W, Clayton HM (Ed.), Equine Locomotion (pp. - ). : Elsevier Health Sciences.
    • Thorpe CT, Birch HL, Clegg PD, Screen HRC (2013). Helical fascicles in energy storing tendons: a mechanism for efficient recoil?.
    • Thorpe CT, Birch HL, Clegg PD, Screen HR (2013). The role of the non-collagenous matrix in tendon function.. Int J Exp Pathol, 94(4), 248 - 259. doi:10.1111/iep.12027
    • Liew F, Roberts D, Birch HL (2013). Can downhill treadmill running induce persistent degenerative changes in the supraspinatus tendon of the rat?.
    • Birch H (2013). Is it possible to train flexor tendons in horses?. Applied Equine Nutrition and Training: Equine Nutrition and Training Conference (ENUTRACO) 2013, , 89 - 96. doi:10.3920/978-90-8686-793-6
    • Thorpe CT, Screen HRC, Clegg PD, Birch HL (2013). Effect of fatigue loading on tendon fascicle extension mechanisms. ASME 2013 Summer Bioengineering Conference, SBC 2013, 1 B, - . doi:10.1115/SBC2013-14009
    • Thorpe CT, Klemt C, Screen HRC, Clegg PD, Riley GP, Birch HL (2013). Helical sub-structures in energy-storing tendons provide a possible mechanism for efficient energy storage and return. Acta Biomaterialia, 9(8), 7948 - 7956. doi:10.1016/j.actbio.2013.05.004
    • Avella C, Birch HL, Smith RKW, Goodship AE (2013). Skeletal physiology: responses to exercise and training. In Hinchcliff KW, Kaneps AJ, Geor RJ (Ed.), Equine Sports Medicine and Surgery (pp. - ). : W.B. Saunders Company.
    • Birch HL, Avella C, Goodship AE, Smith RKW (2013). Tendon and ligament physiology. In Hinchcliff KW, Kaneps AJ, Geor RJ (Ed.), Equine Sports Medicine and Surgery (pp. - ). : W.B. Saunders Company.
    • Thorpe CT, Udeze CP, Birch HL, Clegg PD, Screen HR (2013). Capacity for sliding between tendon fascicles decreases with ageing in injury prone equine tendons: a possible mechanism for age-related tendinopathy?. Eur Cell Mater, 25, 48 - 60.
    • Thorpe CT, Klemt C, Riley GP, Birch HL, Clegg PD, Screen HR (2013). Helical sub-structures in energy-storing tendons provide a possible mechanism for efficient energy storage and return.. Acta Biomater, 9(8), 7948 - 7956. doi:10.1016/j.actbio.2013.05.004
    • Birch HL, Thorpe CT, Rumian AP (2013). Specialisation of extracellular matrix for function in tendons and ligaments.. Muscles Ligaments Tendons J, 3(1), 12 - 22. doi:10.11138/mltj/2013.3.1.012
    • Birch HL (2013). AFTER FRANCIS, WHAT NEXT FOR THE NHS? NCAS performance assessment is seriously flawed. BMJ-BRITISH MEDICAL JOURNAL, 346, - . doi:10.1136/bmj.f2775
    • Birch HL (2013). NCAS performance assessment is seriously flawed.. BMJ, 346, f2775 - .


    • Thorpe CT, Udeze CP, Birch HL, Clegg PD, Screen HR (2012). Specialization of tendon mechanical properties results from interfascicular differences.. J R Soc Interface, 9(76), 3108 - 3117. doi:10.1098/rsif.2012.0362


    • Thorpe CT, Udeze CP, Birch HL, Clegg PD, Screen HRC (2011). Tendon material properties cannot be predicted by the material properties of the tendon fascicles.


    • Thorpe CT, Clegg PD, Birch HL (2010). A review of tendon injury: why is the equine superficial digital flexor tendon most at risk?. Equine Vet J, 42(2), 174 - 180. doi:10.2746/042516409X480395
    • Thorpe CT, Stark RJF, Goodship AE, Birch HL (2010). Mechanical properties of the equine superficial digital flexor tendon relate to specific collagen cross-link levels. EQUINE VET J, 42, 538 - 543. doi:10.1111/j.2042-3306.2010.00175.x
    • Thorpe CT, Streeter I, Pinchbeck GL, Goodship AE, Clegg PD, Birch HL (2010). Aspartic acid racemization and collagen degradation markers reveal an accumulation of damage in tendon collagen that is enhanced with aging.. J Biol Chem, 285(21), 15674 - 15681. doi:10.1074/jbc.M109.077503


    • Thorpe CT, Goodship AE, Clegg PD, Birch HL (2009). Matrix ageing in functionally distinct equine tendons.


    • Birch HL, Worboys S, Eissa S, Strassburg S, Clegg PD (2008). Matrix metabolism differs in functionally distinct tendons. Matrix Biology, 27, 182 - 189.
    • Kasashima Y, Takahashi T, Birch HL, Smith RK, Goodship AE (2008). Can exercise modulate the maturation of functionally different immature tendons in the horse?. J Appl Physiol (1985), 104(2), 416 - 422. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00379.2007
    • Birch HL, Wilson AM, Goodship AE (2008). Physical activity: does long-term, high-intensity exercise in horses result in tendon degeneration?. J Appl Physiol (1985), 105(6), 1927 - 1933. doi:10.1152/japplphysiol.00717.2007


    • Rumian AP, Wallace AL, Birch HL (2007). Tendons and ligaments are anatomically distinct but overlap in molecular and morphological features--a comparative study in an ovine model.. Journal of Orthopaedic Research, 25(4), 458 - 464. doi:10.1002/jor.20218
    • Cambrey AD, Seumenicht O, Birch HL, Brown RA (2007). Non-invasive monitoring of tendon matrix structure.
    • Birch HL (2007). Tendon matrix composition and turnover in relation to functional requirements.. International Journal of Experimental Pathology, 88(4), 241 - 248.


    • Birch HL, Smith TJ, Draper ER, Bailey AJ, Avery NC, Goodship AE (2006). Collagen crosslink profile relates to tendon material properties. doi:10.1016/j.matbio.2006.08.204


    • Mudera V, Seumenicht O, Birch H, Kayser M, Brown RA (2005). Non-destructive quantitative monitoring of tendon structure: study of normal mechanical response to load and changes caused by pathology.
    • Kevorkian L, Young DA, Porter S, Edwards DR, Clark IM, Pennington CJ, Darrah C, Donell ST, Shepstone L, Brockbank S, Parker AE, Boubriak OA, Cui Z, Shengda Z, Wu M-H, Xu X, Li Z, Urban JPG, Derham B, Tew SR, Li Y, Tweats LM, Hawkins RE, Hardingham TE, Adesida A, Green D, Partridge KA, Oreffo ROC, Yang X, Webb D, Cooper C, Leveque I, Mann S, Ball SG, Kielty CM, Qin M, Tai G, Polak JM, Bishop AE, Stolzing A, Scutt A, Colley H, Mc Arthur S, Screen HRC, Shelton JC, Bader DL, Lee DA, Heywood HK, Baria KE, Chowdhury TT, Sharma AM, Knight MM, Appleby RN, Hall A, Hayes A, Caterson B, Brown L, Tubo R, Blain EJ, Gilbert SJ, Duance VC, Davies L, Blain E, Duance V, Cheung F, Sims T, Hollander AP, Dickinson S, Miot S, Martin I, Roughley PJ, Soranzo C, Pavesio A, Pittarello L, Blaker J, Boccaccini AR, Maquet V, Eves P, Beck AJ, Shard AG, Mac Neil S, Gawkrodger DJ, Sudre L, Rajpar MH, Kadler KE, Thornton DJ, Briggs MD, Boot-Handford RP, Wallis G, Ellis MJ, Chaudhuri JB, Tai C-C, Perera S, Callender P, Mason DJ, Scutt N, Rolf CG, Mirmalek-Sani SH, Roach HI, Hanley NA, Wilson DI, MacIntosh AC, Crawford A, Hatton PV, Shah R, Knowles JC, Hunt NP, Lewis MP, Rippon HJ, Ali BE, De Bank PA, Kellam B, Shakesheff KM, Suciati T, Comerford EJ, Tarlton JF, Bailey AJ, Rose FRAJ, Wales A, Innes JF, Olivier V, Xie Y, Hivart P, Hardouin P, Descamps M, Lu J, Anderson V, Vaughan-Thomas A, Spiller DG, Eissa SZS, Birch HL, Faram T, Zeugolis D, Attenburrow G, Paul G, Bhadal N, Whawell SA, Worrall LK, Bradshaw TD, Stevens MFG, Chuo CB, Wiseman MA, Phillips JB, Brown RA, Harrison CA, Gossiel F, Bullock AJ, Blumsohn A, Frazer A, Fraser S, Gaissmaier C, Krackhardt T, Flesch I, Fritz J, Aicher WK, Ashammakhi N, Liu K-K, Yang Y, Ahearne M, El Haj A, Then K, Cheung I, Wright TC, Kostyuk O, Bomzon Z, Kimmel E, Fish RS, Ralphs JR, Farjanel J, Sève S, Borel A, Sommer P, Hulmes DJS, Whiting CV, Dalton SJ, Stenfeldt C, Avery NC, Tidswell H, Crabtree J, Mitchell DC, Kafienah W, Mistry S, Hollander A, Cartmell S, Magnay J, Dobson J, Salter DM, Barry JJA, Howdle SM, Nazhat SN, Scotchford CA, Roberts S, Gargiulo B, Evans EH, Menage J, Johnson WEB, Eisenstein S, Richardson JB, Wong M, Mudera V, Beckett K, Grobbelaar A, Bax DV, Cain SA, Humphries MJ, Lomas A, Oldershaw R, Murdoch A, Brennan K, Redman S, Haughton L, Dowthwaite G, Archer CW, Williams A, Esfandiari E, Stokes CR, Bailey M, Hayman AR, Day MJ, Cox TM, Evans MJ, Williams R, Evans D, Millwards-Sadler J, Salter D, Smith R, Goodship A, Korda M, Porter R, Kalia P, Wiseman M, Blunn G, McClumpha A, Pabbruwe MB, Du X, Stewart K, Horrocks M, Lakey RL, Cawston TE, Palmer L, Tasman C, Clare M, Gidley J, Sandy J, Mansell J, Ellis T, Lauder R, Burger F, Khan I, Smith M (2005). British society for matrix biology autumn meeting. International Journal of Experimental Pathology, 86(3), - . doi:10.1111/j.0959-9673.2005.00426.x
    • Wiseman MA, Birch HL, Akmal M, Goodship AE (2005). Segmental variation in the in vitro cell metabolism of nucleus pulposus cells isolated from a series of bovine caudal intervertebral discs.. Spine, 30(5), 505 - 511. doi:10.1097/01.brs.0000154615.22311.66
    • Goodship AE, Birch HL (2005). Cross sectional area measurement of tendon and ligament in vitro: a simple, rapid, non-destructive technique.. Journal of Biomechanics, 38(3), 605 - 608. doi:10.1016/j.jbiomech.2004.05.003
    • Edwards LJ, Goodship AE, Birch HL, Patterson-Kane JC (2005). Effect of exercise on age-related changes in collagen fibril diameter distributions in the common digital extensor tendons of young horses.. American Journal of Veterinary Research, 66(4), 564 - 568.
    • Eissa SZS, Faram T, Birch HL (2005). Ageing results in an increase in specific MMP levels in digital tendons.


    • Kostyuk O, Birch HL, Mudera V, Brown RA (2004). Structural changes in loaded equine tendons can be monitored by a novel spectroscopic technique.. The Journal of Physiology, 554(3), 791 - 801. doi:10.1113/jphysiol.2003.054809


    • Batson EL, Paramour RJ, Smith TJ, Birch HL, Patterson-Kane JC, Goodship AE (2003). Are the material properties and matrix composition of equine flexor and extensor tendons determined by their functions?. Equine Veterinary Journal, 35(3), 314 - 318.


    • Smith RK, Gerard M, Dowling B, Dart AJ, Birch HL, Goodship AE (2002). Correlation of cartilage oligomeric matrix protein (COMP) levels in equine tendon with mechanical properties: a proposed role for COMP in determining function-specific mechanical characteristics of locomotor tendons.. Equine Veterinary Journal, (34), 241 - 244.
    • Smith RK, Birch HL, Goodman S, Heinegard D, Goodship AE (2002). The influence of ageing and exercise on tendon growth and degeneration--hypotheses for the initiation and prevention of strain-induced tendinopathies.. Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A: Molecular and Integrative Physiology, 133(4), 1039 - 1050.
    • Kasashima Y, Smith RK, Birch HL, Takahashi T, Kusano K, Goodship AE (2002). Exercise-induced tendon hypertrophy: cross-sectional area changes during growth are influenced by exercise.. Equine Veterinary Journal, (34), 264 - 268.
    • Birch HL, Smith TJ, Poulton C, Peiffer D, Goodship AE (2002). Do regional variations in flexor tendons predispose to site-specific injuries?. Equine Veterinary Journal, (34), 288 - 292.


    • Goodship AE, Birch HL (2001). Exercise effects on the skeletal tissues. In Back W, Clayton HM (Ed.), Equine Locomotion (pp. - ). : Elsevier Health Sciences.
    • Murray RC, Vedi S, Birch HL, Lakhani KH, Goodship AE (2001). Subchondral bone thickness, hardness and remodelling are influenced by short-term exercise in a site-specific manner.. Journal of Orthopaedic Research, 19(6), 1035 - 1042.
    • Murray RC, Birch HL, Lakhani K, Goodship AE (2001). Biochemical composition of equine carpal articular cartilage is influenced by short-term exercise in a site-specific manner.. Osteoarthritis Cartilage, 9(7), 625 - 632.


    • Birch HL, McLaughlin L, Smith RK, Goodship AE (1999). Treadmill exercise-induced tendon hypertrophy: assessment of tendons with different mechanical functions.. Equine Veterinary Journal, 30, 222 - 226.
    • Birch HL, Bailey JV, Bailey AJ, Goodship AE (1999). Age-related changes to the molecular and cellular components of equine flexor tendons.. Equine Veterinary Journal, 31(5), 391 - 396.
    • Smith RK, Birch H, Patterson-Kane J, Firth EC, Williams L, Cherdchutham W, van Weeren WR, Goodship AE (1999). Should equine athletes commence training during skeletal development?: changes in tendon matrix associated with development, ageing, function and exercise.. Equine Veterinary Journal, 30, 201 - 209.
    • Firth EC, Delahunt J, Wichtel JW, Birch HL, Goodship AE (1999). Galloping exercise induces regional changes in bone density within the third and radial carpal bones of Thoroughbred horses.. Equine Veterinary Journal, 31(2), 111 - 115.


    • Birch HL, Bailey AJ, Goodship AE (1998). Macroscopic 'degeneration' of equine superficial digital flexor tendon is accompanied by a change in extracellular matrix composition.. Equine Veterinary Journal, 30(6), 534 - 539.


    • Birch HL, Rutter GA, Goodship AE (1997). Oxidative energy metabolism in equine tendon cells. RES VET SCI, 62, 93 - 97.
    • Flannery CR, Hughes CE, Little CB, Birch HL, Goodship AE, Caterson BC (1997). Expression of matrix metalloproteinases and aggrecanase activity in articular joints from thoroughbred racehorses in a short term training study. TRANS ORTHOP RES SOC, 22, 455 - 455.
    • Flannery CR, Hughes CE, Little CB, Birch HL, Goodship AE, Caterson B (1997). Expression of matrix metalloproteinases and aggrecanase activity in articular joints from thoroughbred racehorses in a short term training study.
    • Patterson-Kane JC, Firth EC, Goodship AE, Parry DA (1997). An age-related study of morphology and crosslink composition of collagen fibrils in the digital flexor tendons of young thoroughbred horses. Connective Tissue Research, 36, 253 - 260.
    • Boyde A, Jones SJ, Radcliffe R, Arora M, Birch HL, Wilson AM, Goodship AE, Riggs CM (1997). Non-explosive fracture in a cannon bone: A case report. Scanning, 19, 209 - 210.
    • Birch HL, Wilson AM, Goodship AE (1997). The effect of exercise-induced localised hyperthermia on tendon cell survival. Journal of Experimental Biology, 200, 1703 - 1708.


    • Goodship AE, Birch HL (1996). The pathophysiology of the flexor tendons in the equine athlete. In Rantanen NW, Hauser ML (Ed.), The Equine Athlete: Tendon, Ligament and Soft Tissue Injuries, Dubai International Equine Symposium (pp. 83 - 107). : Matthew R. Rantanen Designs.
    • Miles CA, Fursey GA, Birch HL, Young RD (1996). Factors affecting the ultrasonic properties of equine digital flexor tendons.. Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology, 22(7), 907 - 915.


    • Goodship AE, Birch HL, Wilson AM (1994). The pathobiology and repair of tendon and ligament injury.. Veterinary Clinics of North America: Equine Practice, 10(2), 323 - 349.
    • Miles CA, Wardale RJ, Birch HL, Bailey AJ (1994). Differential scanning calorimetric studies of superficial digital flexor tendon degeneration in the horse.. Equine Veterinary Journal, 26(4), 291 - 296.