JOURNAL ARTICLE

Augmentation of tendon healing with an injectable tendon hydrogel in a rat Achilles tendon model

Maxwell Y Kim, Simon Farnebo, Colin Y L Woon, Taliah Schmitt, Hung Pham, James Chang
Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery 2014, 133 (5): 645e-653e
24776566

BACKGROUND: Many unsolved problems in plastic and hand surgery are related to poor healing of acute and chronic tendon injuries. The authors hypothesized that tendon healing could be augmented by the addition of a tendon-derived, extracellular matrix hydrogel that would guide tissue regeneration.

METHODS: Both Achilles tendons of 36 Wistar rats were given full-thickness injuries approximately 5 mm long and 0.5 mm wide from the tendon insertion at the calcaneus to the midsubstance. The hydrogel was injected into the injury site of one leg and compared with control saline in the other. The ultimate failure load, ultimate tensile stress, and stiffness were evaluated at 2, 4, and 8 weeks. Tendon cross-sections underwent histologic analysis (hematoxylin and eosin and picrosirius red) after the animals were killed. Statistical analysis of biomechanical data was performed using a paired t test.

RESULTS: There was no significant difference in strength between gel and saline injections in ultimate failure load (p = 0.15), ultimate tensile stress (p = 0.42), or stiffness (p = 0.76) at 2 weeks. However, there was a significant difference in ultimate failure load (74.8 ± 11.6 N versus 58.4 ± 14.2 N; p = 0.02) at 4 weeks. The difference in ultimate tensile stress (p = 0.63) and stiffness (p = 0.08) remained insignificant. By 8 weeks, there was no significant difference in strength in ultimate failure load (p = 0.15), ultimate tensile stress (p = 0.39), or stiffness (p = 0.75).

CONCLUSIONS: Treatment with the tendon hydrogel significantly increases the ultimate failure load of tendons at the critical 4-week time point, and is a promising method for augmentation of tendon healing.

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