Background: Tendons are primarily acellular, limiting their intrinsic regenerative capabilities. This limited regenerative potential contributes to delayed healing, rupture, and adhesion formation after tendon injury. Purpose: To determine if a tendon’s intrinsic regenerative potential could be improved after the application of a purified exosome product (PEP) when loaded onto a collagen scaffold. Study Design: Controlled laboratory study. Methods: An in vivo rabbit Achilles tendon model was used and consisted of 3 groups: (1) Achilles tenotomy with suture repair, (2) Achilles tenotomy with suture repair and collagen scaffold, and (3) Achilles tenotomy with suture repair and collagen scaffold loaded with PEP at 1 × 1012 exosomes/mL. Each group consisted of 15 rabbits for a total of 45 specimens. Mechanical and histologic analyses were performed at both 3 and 6 weeks. Results: The load to failure and ultimate tensile stress were found to be similar across all groups (P ≥.15). The tendon cross-sectional area was significantly smaller for tendons treated with PEP compared with the control groups at 6 weeks, which was primarily related to an absence of external adhesions (P =.04). Histologic analysis confirmed these findings, demonstrating significantly lower adhesion grade both macroscopically (P =.0006) and microscopically (P =.0062) when tendons were treated with PEP. Immunohistochemical staining showed a greater intensity for type 1 collagen for PEP-treated tendons compared with collagen-only or control tendons. Conclusion: Mechanical and histologic results suggested that healing in the PEP-treated group favored intrinsic healing (absence of adhesions) while control animals and animals treated with collagen only healed primarily via extrinsic scar formation. Despite a smaller cross-sectional area, treated tendons had the same ultimate tensile stress. This pilot investigation shows promise for PEP as a means of effectively treating tendon injuries and enhancing intrinsic healing. Clinical Relevance: The production of a cell-free, off-the-shelf product that can promote tendon regeneration would provide a viable solution for physicians and patients to enhance tendon healing and decrease adhesions as well as shorten the time required to return to work or sports.
- growth factors/healing enhancement
- injury prevention
- tendon biomechanics
- tendon healing
- tissue engineering
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Orthopedics and Sports Medicine