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Flexor Tendon Tissue Engineering: Temporal Distribution of Donor Tenocytes versus Recipient Cells

Thorfinn, Johan, M.D., Ph.D.; Saber, Sepideh, B.S.; Angelidis, Ioannis K., M.D.; Ki, Sae H., M.D., Ph.D.; Zhang, Andrew Y., M.D.; Chong, Alphonsus K., M.D.; Pham, Hung M., B.S.; Lee, Gordon K., M.D.; Chang, James, M.D.

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: December 2009 - Volume 124 - Issue 6 - p 2019-2026
doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e3181bcf320

Background: Tissue-engineered tendon material may address tendon shortages in mutilating hand injuries. Tenocytes from rabbit flexor tendon can be successfully seeded onto acellularized tendons that are used as tendon constructs. These constructs in vivo exhibit a population of tenocyte-like cells; however, it is not known to what extent these cells are of donor or recipient origin. Furthermore, the temporal distribution is also not known.

Methods: Tenocytes from New Zealand male rabbits were cultured and seeded onto acellularized rabbit forepaw flexor tendons (n = 48). These tendon constructs were transplanted into female recipients. Tendons were examined after 3, 6, 12, and 30 weeks using fluorescent in situ hybridization to detect the Y chromosome in the male donor cells. One unseeded, acellularized allograft in each animal was used as a control.

Results: The donor male tenocytes populate the epitenon and endotenon of the grafts at greater numbers than the recipient female tenocytes at 3 and 6 weeks. The donor and recipient tenocytes are present jointly in the grafts until 12 weeks. At 30 weeks, nearly all cells are recipient tenocyte-like cells.

Conclusions: Donor male cells survive in decreasing numbers over time until 30 weeks. The presence of cells in tissue-engineered tendon grafts has been shown in prior studies to add to the strength of the constructs in vitro. This study shows that recipient cells can migrate into and repopulate the tendon construct. Cell seeding onto tendon material may create stronger constructs that will allow the initiation of motion earlier.

Stanford, Calif.; Linköping, Sweden; and Singapore

From the Section of Plastic Surgery, Department of Veterans Affairs and Division of Plastic Surgery, Stanford University Medical Center; Department of Plastic Surgery, Hand Surgery and Burns, University Hospital; and Department of Hand and Reconstructive Microsurgery, National University Health System.

Received for publication April 21, 2009; accepted July 1, 2009.

Abstracted presented orally at the 54th Annual Meeting of the Plastic Surgery Research Council, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, May 28 through 30, 2009.

Disclosure:None of the authors, or their relatives, has a financial interest in any of the companies, products, drugs, or devices mentioned in this article.

Johan Thorfinn, M.D., Ph.D., Division of Plastic Surgery, Stanford University Medical Center, 770 Welch Road, Suite 400, Stanford, Calif. 94305,

©2009American Society of Plastic Surgeons