English researchers have developed a new technique for culturing stem cells for use in the treatment of tendon injuries. Because they have the potential to develop into various types of specialized cells, stem cells have become an increasingly popular therapy for hard-to-heal injuries.
In particular, stem cell therapy is often used to treat damaged tendons because they are notorious for forming scar tissue, which reduces elasticity and leaves the healed structure susceptible to reinjury.
Current stem cell therapies improve healing rates in tendons but have had little impact on the risk of reinjury. Looking for a way to enhance the healing process and long-term results, researchers at the Animal Health Trust in Newmarket added growth factors to stem cell cultures and then grew the cells on three-dimensional “scaffolds” under constant tension. The resulting tendon cells were able to produce higher levels of critical tissue-building and healing compounds, such as collagen, compared to cells grown via other methods.
Whether this technique can be taken beyond the laboratory is still unknown, but researchers hope it can one day benefit horses with tendon tears.
Reference: “Three-dimensional culture and transforming growth factor beta3 synergistically promote tenogenic differentiation of equine embryo-derived stem cells,” Tissue Engineering, April 2014
This article first appeared in EQUUS issue #442.