Journal of orthopaedic research : official publication of the Orthopaedic Research Society

A bioreactor system for in vitro tendon differentiation and tendon tissue engineering.

PMID 25664422


There is significant clinical demand for functional tendon grafts in human and veterinary medicine. Tissue engineering techniques combining cells, scaffolds, and environmental stimuli may circumvent the shortcomings of traditional transplantation processes. In this study, the influence of cyclic mechanical stimulation on graft maturation and cellular phenotype was assessed in an equine model. Decellularized tendon scaffolds from four equine sources were seeded with syngeneic bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells and subjected to 0%, 3%, or 5% strain at 0.33 Hz for up to 1 h daily for 11 days. Cells cultured at 3% strain integrated deep into their scaffolds, altered extracellular matrix composition, adopted tendon-like gene expression profiles, and increased construct elastic modulus and ultimate tensile strength to native levels. This bioreactor protocol is therefore suitable for cultivating replacement tendon material or as an in vitro model for studying differentiation of stem cells toward tendon.