Stem cell-bearing suture improves Achilles tendon healing in a rat model.
BACKGROUND: Tendon healing is a slow and complicated process that results in inferior structural and functional properties when compared to healthy tendon tissue. It may be possible to improve outcomes of tendon healing with enhancement of biological aspects of the repair including tissue structure, organization, and composition. The purpose of this study was to determine whether use of a stem cell-bearing suture improves Achilles tendon healing in a rat model. METHODS: The Achilles tendon was transected in 108 bilateral hind limbs from 54 rats. Each limb was randomized to repair with suture only (SO), suture plus injection (SI) of mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) at the repair site, or suture loaded with MSCs (suture with stem cells, SCS). One half of the animals were randomly sacrificed at 14 and 28 days after surgery and the Achilles tendon was harvested. From each repair group at each time point, 12 limbs were randomized to biomechanical testing and 6 to histologic analysis. Tendons were loaded using a 223-N load cell at 0.17 mm/s. A blinded pathologist scored the histology sections. RESULTS: Ultimate failure strength (N/mm(2)) was significantly higher in the SI and SCS groups versus the SO group. In the SI group, ultimate failure strength decreased significantly at 28 days versus 14 days. Histology score in the SCS group was significantly lower (better) than in both other groups (P ≤ .001). Histology findings at day 28 were significantly higher versus day 14 for all groups (P = .01). CONCLUSIONS: Both the SI and the SCS groups had significantly higher ultimate failure strength versus the SO group, and strength was maintained at 28 days in the SCS group but not in the SI group. Histology in the SCS group was significantly better than in both other groups. CLINICAL RELEVANCE: These findings in a rat model suggest that the use of stem cells enhances healing after Achilles repair and that embedding of stem cells directly into suture offers sustained early benefit to tendon healing.
Adams, SB; Thorpe, MA; Parks, BG; Aghazarian, G; Allen, E; Schon, LC
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