Silk composite scaffold helps with fast and effective tendon regeneration

May 5, 2022
Silk composite scaffold helps with fast and effective tendon regeneration

Complete healing of a damaged tendon is almost impossible, and the tendon in question can never return to the function and flexibility it once had. Researchers at the Terasaki Institute for Biomedical Innovation (TIBI) in California, US, have shown how silk scaffolds loaded with stem cells can regenerate tendons faster and more effectively, with less scarring within the tissue.

Tendons are complex connective tissues that hold muscles and bones in place. A damaged or torn tendon – either through sports injury or physical exertion – can never fully heal. Excess scarring can also occur, changing the tendon’s mechanical properties and its ability to bear loads.

Instead of regular hydrogel scaffolds used to heal injured tendons, TIBI researchers constructed biomaterial scaffolds containing silk fibroin, a silk protein produced by the Bombyx mori silkworm, on which to introduce mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in order to generate new tendon tissue. MSCs can not only differentiate into several cell types, but also aid regeneration by producing signaling molecules and encouraging new blood vessel formation.

The silk fibroin was paired with GelMA, a gelatin-based, water-retaining gel, to improve the scaffold’s regenerative ability. Experiments in rats with injuries to their Achilles tendons showed stem cell-loaded scaffolds healed the tendons the fastest, while also forming densely packed tendon fibres, reducing injury sites, and remodeling important muscle components.

“The synergistic effects of GelMA’s capacity for supporting regenerative tissue formation and the structural advantages of silk fibroin make our composite material well suited for tendon repair,” said TIBI’s Dr. Han Jun Kim, whose team hopes the stem-cell-loaded scaffolds could eventually lead to new therapies for tendon injuries.

[In addition to its use in beautiful and delicate silk fabrics, silk fibroin is used in optical and electrical devices, and in several biomedical applications, including in corneal tissue bioengineering – because of its superior strength, durability, biocompatibility, and bio-degradative qualities, silk fibroin is ideal for use in scaffolds for tendon regrowth.]

Read: New, multi-functional material promises more effective tendon repair

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Category: Education, Features

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