Rotator cuff tears repaired with experimental treatment

August 15, 2022
Rotator cuff tears repaired with experimental treatment

Researchers from the University of Connecticut (UConn) School of Medicine are working on a potential breakthrough treatment for shoulder injuries, one that employs an unusual technique. Shoulder injuries are often caused by tears to the tendons of a niche group of muscles called the rotator cuff.

An experimental treatment sees a graphene/polymer matrix embedded into the shoulder to prevent weakening of this group of muscles, and also fat accumulation – the weakened muscle can’t handle normal stresses and the area will be prone to re-injury, said UConn scientist Dr. Cato T. Laurencin.

Current surgical repairs focus on the tendon and how to reattach it to the bone most effectively. “But the real problem is that the muscle degenerates and accumulates fat. With a tear, the muscle shrinks, and the body grows fat in that area instead,” Dr. Laurencin explained.

A team from the UConn School of Medicine and the UConn Connecticut Convergence Institute so developed a polymer mesh infused with nanoplatelets of graphene which was used to repair the shoulders of rats who had chronic rotator cuff tears and muscle atrophy (degeneration}. The muscles eventually regenerated.

The team also tried growing muscle on the mesh in a petri dish in the lab and found that the material encouraged the growth of myotubes, precursors of muscle, while simultaneously discouraging the formation of fat.

The researchers plan to study this reaction in large animals and further develop the technology for human use.

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