Sutures With Embedded Stem Cells Heal Much Faster

Achilles tendon injuries are somewhat common for professional, collegiate, and recreational athletes, and they are usually treated surgically. Torn tendons are reattached or patched with sutures.

A research group from Union Memorial Hospital, in Baltimore, Maryland has discovered that depositing stem cells onto sutures can lead to faster healing after surgery that also leads to stronger tendons.

Such a finding can lift the spirits of those who have had the misfortune of healing from an Achilles tendon repair procedure, Often, the patient has to keep their leg immobilized for days after surgery, and even after rehabilitation, tendon rupture remains a nagging risk.

This study showed, however, that when compared with traditional Achilles tendon repair surgery, laboratory animals that had mesenchymal stem cells from bone marrow embedded in their sutures healed faster and had tougher tendons that resisted post-surgical rupture.

Another bonus from this study was that the stem cells stayed in the tendon and promoted healing during the period when the patients are unable to their leg. Limb immobilization can cause muscle and tendon atrophy and may also cause adhesions. These can affect how strong and functional the muscle and tendon are after reattachment.

Not only did the stem cells encourage faster healing, by the tendon strength was great in the stem cell-treated group after four weeks. Hopefully these pre-clinical trials will give way to clinical trials with human patients.

Tendon Stem Cells to Repair Torn Tendons

The Australian regenerative medicine company Orthocell Limited has announced the results of their recent clinical trial in which a patented Orthocell stem cell technology was used to repair torn tendons.

Tendon injuries are one of the most common causes of occupational- and sports-related disabilities. Current clinical treatments are not terribly effective. Orthocell’s new technique, autologous tenocyte implantation (Ortho-ATIT) uses biopsies of healthy tendons, isolation and cultivation of tendon stem cells (tenocytes), and re-injection of those cells into the injured tendon. The injection process takes about 20 minutes and is less invasive than surgery.


The data from this clinical trial confirm that Ortho-ATIT is safe and effective at relieving pain and repairing tendon injuries. The patients in this study had failed at least one previous therapy, including physiotherapy and corticosteroid injections. However as a result of being treated with Ortho-ATIT, patients achieved significant improvement in tendon function and structural integrity.

Orthocell Managing Director Paul Anderson said that the clinical study indicates great potential for the Ortho-ATIT stem cell-based tendon repair technology.

Anderson said, “We are now focusing our efforts on offering this world class treatment more widely to patients throughout Australasia, and we are also investigating new potential markets overseas.”

Ortho-ATIT is the result of over 10 years of research and development by Professor Ming Hao Zheng‘s research group at the Centre for Translational Orthopaedic Research at the University of Western Australia.

Amanda Redwood, a 45-year old mother of two children who participated in this clinical trial said that Ortho-ATIT relieved her severe elbow pain within six months. Redwood said, “I experienced debilitating symptoms of tennis elbow for more than 16 months before I had the procedure. Within six weeks of the injection the pain started to subside and within 6 months it was gone.”

Ortho-ATIT has been approved by the Therapeutics Good Administration (TGA) in Australia. The technology is available to patients in Australasia who have failed conservative treatment.