Regenerative medicine is exploring exciting new techniques to regrow, repair or replace diseased or damaged cells, tissues and organs. This new branch of medicine involves the generation and use of therapeutic stem cells, tissue engineering, and the development of artificial organs.
Regrowing, repairing, or replacing damaged cells is not a new idea, but with constant research, improvements, and extensive clinical studies, the specialism is evolving rapidly.
Recent research led by Carnegie Institution for Science’s Chen-Ming Fan, Ph.D., and published in Nature Cell Biology reveals the existence of tendon stem cells that could potentially be harnessed to improve tendon healing and even to avoid surgery.
“Tendons are the connective tissue that tethers our muscles to our bones,” Dr. Fan explained. “They improve our stability and facilitate the transfer of force that allows us to move. But they are also particularly susceptible to injury and damage.”
The current mechanistic understanding of tendon regeneration is limited but tendon injuries cause prolonged disability and rarely recover completely. The culprit is fibrous scar buildup (scar tissue) which disrupts the tissue structure of the tendon.
This makes recovery from torn rotator cuffs, jumper’s knee and other tendon injuries a painful, challenging process, often leading to secondary tendon ruptures, limited mobility and require long-term pain management or even surgery.
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