Stem cell-filled silk patches accelerate healing of injured tendons

(ORDO NEWS) — Tendon injuries are painful and do not always heal properly. Researchers at the Terasaki Institute have shown that silk scaffolds with stem cells can help tendons regenerate more efficiently.

Tendons are critical tissues that connect muscles to bones, but they can be torn or torn when moving during sports or other physical activity.

These injuries can take weeks or months to heal, and even after that, they usually don’t fully heal, resulting in weakening of the tendons and an increased risk of another injury.

In recent years, researchers have been experimenting with ways to promote the regeneration of injured tendons.

These include hydrogel scaffolds that have the same consistency as natural tendons, which help speed up the healing process, or a two-faced material that can firmly hold two sections of the tendon together while allowing it to glide over other tissues. Others use scaffolding filled with stem cells.

For the new study, the Terasaki scientists developed their own scaffold that could support the tendon while it heals. This scaffold was made from silk fibroin paired with a hydrogel known as GelMA – the former gives the scaffold strength and extensibility, while the latter is biocompatible and promotes cell attachment and growth.

After experimenting to get the right ratio of ingredients, the team fabricated nanofiber sheets from silk fibroin and GelMA (SG) material.

The sheets were then seeded with mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs), which can not only differentiate into multiple cell types, but also promote regeneration by producing signaling molecules that induce immune cells to the site of injury and promote the formation of new blood vessels.

Stem cell filled silk patches accelerate healing of injured tendons 2

The team tested these stem cell-loaded SG sheets on rats with Achilles tendon injuries. Compared to other scaffolds loaded with stem cells, SG scaffolds healed tendons the fastest, while forming densely packed tendon fibers, reducing injury sites, and remodeling muscle components.

“The synergistic effect of GelMA’s ability to support regenerative tissue formation and the structural benefits of silk fibroin make our composite material well suited for tendon repair,” said Han Joon Kim, lead researcher on the study.

The team hopes that with further work, the stem cell-laden scaffolding could lead to new treatments for tendon injuries.

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