Damage to a tendon can create problems in the way the injured joint moves. These altered biomechanics are known to lead to osteoarthritis is a large number of people. A consortium of scientists, led in part by University of Southern California School of Dentistry researcher Songtao Shi, has identified unique cells within the adult tendon that have stem-cell characteristics—including the ability to proliferate and self-renew. The research team was able to isolate these cells and regenerate tendon-like tissue in an animal model. Their findings hold promise for the treatment of tendon injuries.
Tendons, the tough band of specialized tissues that connect bone to muscle, are comprised of strong collagen fibrils that transmit force allowing the body to move. “Clinically, tendon injury is a difficult one to treat,” Shi says. “This research demonstrates that we can use stem cells to repair tendons. We now know how to collect them from tissue and how to control their formation into tendon cells.”
The results of this research have been published online ahead of print in the journal Nature Medicine.
Yanming Bi, Driss Ehirchiou, Tina M Kilts, et al. Identification of tendon stem/progenitor cells and the role of the extracellular matrix in their niche. Nature Medicine, www.nature.com/nm. doi:10.1038/nm1630
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