Investigating Mechanoregulation of Stem Cells for Tendon Tissue Engineering
University of Idaho Seed Grant
Tendons are musculoskeletal tissues that transfer mechanical forces from muscle to bone. Transfer of force is required for normal human movement, such as locomotion. Unfortunately, injuries to tendons are common, and tendons have poor healing ability. These problems have motivated recent efforts to develop engineered tendon replacements using adult mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs). However, a fully functional tendon replacement has yet to be been developed, likely due to the challenge of guiding tenogenesis (stem cell differentiation toward the tendon lineage). Our overall research goal is to identify mechanisms of tenogenesis, and use these findings to advance tendon healing and regeneration. This project will evaluate how mechanical stretching of MSCs grown in an engineered tissue scaffold influences the production of tendon specific marker proteins and the formation of connections between adjacent cells. To do this, we will seed MSCs in collagen scaffolds, and apply mechanical stimuli using our custom-built mechanical bioreactor. Results will determine how the amount and speed of stretching impact cell behavior and markers of tenogenesis in stem cells. Outcomes of these studies will result in advanced understanding of processes that regulate the tenogenic differentiation of stem cells. These findings will lead to new ways of treating tendon injuries.