Harvard scientists are developing a method to repair damaged tendons and muscles

Human shoulder muscles

After using their tissue platform, researchers observed tissue regeneration and recovery of shoulder function.

The new complex tissue platform can repair damaged rotator cuffs

The typical office worker often experiences pain all over their body due to their sedentary desk work. Young people can also develop shoulder pain, which used to be an issue especially in older people. Once shoulder pain creeps in, it’s difficult to get dressed, let alone move around. Falling asleep is also difficult. While the rotator cuffs often become naturally damaged with age, repairing them has proven difficult.

Researchers POSTECH and Harvard Medical School

The joint research team from POSTECH and Harvard Medical School was responsible for the study. Photo credit: POSTECH

Through a collaboration with Professor Hak Soo Choi at Harvard Medical School, a Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) research team composed of Professor Dong-Woo Cho, Dr. Suhun Chae and Jinah Jang and Professor Jinah Jang and Ph.D. Candidate Uijung Yong, has developed a complex tissue platform that can repair damaged rotator cuffs. This platform, which can precisely replicate the intricate structure of rotator cuffs, is 3D bioprinted using tissue-specific extracellular matrix bio-ink.

The International Journal Bioactive Materials recently published the results of this study, which could potentially bring new hope to patients with chronic shoulder pain.

The study team transplanted this platform into rats with full-thickness rotator cuff injuries. Researchers observed tissue regeneration and repair in shoulder function. The results proved that the platform containing stem cells can indeed regenerate rotator cuffs.

Specifically, researchers combined tissue-specific bioimaging tools with near-infrared fluorescence imaging to visualize this process. With this technique, the researchers were able to track anatomical change and regeneration processes in the animal model in real time and non-invasively.

Rotator cuff repair

A graphic showing how the researchers restored the rotator cuff of the shoulder. Photo credit: POSTECH

This platform provides a microenvironment and components that resemble those of the actual tissue. Therefore, once used in patients, it is expected to have high treatment benefit and eventual shoulder function recovery. It is particularly beneficial for patients who cannot use their own tissues to regenerate the rotator cuff by providing a personalized treatment option.

This study was supported by the Nano-Materials Core Technology Development Project of the National Research Foundation of Korea and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) in the USA

Reference: “3D cell printing of gradient multi-tissue interfaces for rotator cuff regeneration” by Suhun Chae, Uijung Yong, Wonbin Park, Yoo-mi Choi, In-Ho Jeon, Homan Kang, Jinah Jang, Hak Soo Choi and Dong-Woo Cho, May 11, 2022 Bioactive Materials.
DOI: 10.1016/j.bioactmat.2022.05.004