Research: What turns stem cells into tendon tissue?

Marrow harvested from the patient's bone can be used to grow a supply of stem cell and platelet rich plasma therapies at the EMC's on-site molecular research laboratory.
Marrow harvested from a patient’s bone can be used to grow a supply of stem cell and platelet rich plasma therapies. © Amy Troppmann

Researchers at Virginia Tech hope to learn move about the factors that induce stem cells to become tendon tissue.

The research, funded by the Morris Animal Foundation, is being led by Dr Jennifer Barrett.

A recently developed technique for treating tendon and ligament injuries involves injecting stem cells into the damaged areas to help heal tissue. The technique is being used on lame horses.

Stem cells can be derived from several different tissues or locations, such as bone marrow, fat and tendon, but there is little information as to which type of stem cell is best for healing tendons.

Researchers from Virginia Tech are comparing three different sources of stem cells to determine which have the greatest capacity to regenerate tendons.

Dr Jennifer Barrett
Dr Jennifer Barrett

To date, the research team has developed a culture system and successfully grown stem cells derived from tendon and bone marrow.

The foundation, in a research update, said that later this year the researchers would conduct studies to identify growth factors to help induce stem cells to become tendon tissue.

Understanding which stem cell type and culture conditions are best suited to treat tendon and ligament injuries will help researchers develop new therapies to facilitate tendon healing, thereby reducing the risk of re-injury.

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