Medical

Stem cell-infused mesh regrows torn rotator cuffs

Stem cell-infused mesh regrows...
Torn rotator cuffs are a common injury, and are challenging to treat surgically
Torn rotator cuffs are a common injury, and are challenging to treat surgically
View 1 Image
Torn rotator cuffs are a common injury, and are challenging to treat surgically
1/1
Torn rotator cuffs are a common injury, and are challenging to treat surgically

The rotator cuff is a grouping of tendons that keep the ball of your upper-arm bone in your shoulder socket – and, as many people will know from first-hand experience, it can get torn away from the bone. Surgery is sometimes required, although the weakened tendons will frequently just tear again after the operation. Now, however, scientists from the University of Connecticut have developed a method of regenerating rotator cuff tendons, using a nanostructured polymer mesh seeded with stem cells.

In lab rat studies, torn rotator cuff tendons were first surgically reattached to the bone (as they would be ordinarily), but then some of them were also wrapped in the stem-cell-seeded "nano-mesh." After a healing period of several weeks, the mesh-wrapped tendons were found to have made a better attachment to the bone than those that weren't wrapped.

Additionally, the wrapped tendons were stronger overall, and had a cell structure more like that of undamaged tissue, making them less prone to subsequent failure. By the time that the tendons had fully regenerated, the mesh simply biodegraded and was absorbed by the body.

While doctors do already sometimes inject stem cells directly into rotator cuff tears, the cells often don't stay at the surgery site long enough to do much good. The nano-mesh, on the other hand, gives them a place to "roost," so that they remain in place. They then send out signals that direct other cells to grow into tendon tissue.

It is now hoped that the technology could be used not just on torn rotator cuffs, but also on injured tendons in other locations such as the knee.

The research was led by Dr. Cato Laurencin, and is described in a paper published in the journal PLOS ONE.

Source: University of Connecticut

3 comments
LarryWolf
It won't help those with an 'old' injury. Frequently torn rotator cuffs tendons atrophy when NOT attached after an injury and a surgeon cannot 'stretch' the tendons adequately to reattach them. Such is life with my right arm with 4 of 5 torn tendons. Surgery failed to reattach a single one as I waited too long after the injury to allow the swelling and pain to go down and then the tendons shrunk so badly the surgeon could not reattach any of them. So this discovery won't help those who can't have their tendons sewn back on the bone, etc.
Buellrider
LarryW, Not necessarily true. You just did not find the right surgeon to repair your injury. I had an old injury and my surgeon had to pull the atrophied muscle over to reattach. I suffered for at least a month but eventually the pain subsided and I healed. Some doctors are just better than others.
StWils
Not so fast Larry. Lots of things are changing including surgical tools & techniques. The very point of researching stem cells is to enable reconstructing damaged and even totally missing tissues. None of this is minor but still there are possibilities evolving today that 5 or 10 years ago in fact would have been seen as science fiction or even fantasy. My question for now is about the technique for installing these mesh tendon structures. Part of the problem presented by both shoulder and knee surgery is that the procedures are very invasive and currently require cutting into the overlaying muscles. This alone is responsible for much of the recovery time and some of the permanent damage caused by the procedure. So, does this meshed scaffolding tool get placed laparascopically? Laparascopy makes very small incisions to intentionally displace as little of the surrounding tissues as possible. Doing so would greatly lessen the strain on a shoulder or knee and also exposes the patient to a lessened potential infection. The next iteration of this article should highlight installation technique. Not damaging anything else on the way in or out to repairing a damaged joint or other structure is easily as important as the repair itself.