Hamstring grafts are tenogenic constructs for ACL reconstruction and Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields improve tendon specific markers expression. An in-vitro study

A Marmotti, S Mattia, L Mangiavini, E Bellato, E Ragni, L de Girolamo, G M Peretti, D Blonna, D Bonasia, S Setti, F Castoldi

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Hamstring tendons represent one of the commonest autologous graft used during ACL reconstruction. The harvest of the tendon and the time of tendon processing on the operating table, together with the pretensioning maneuvers and the permanence out of the joint during the time of surgery, might impair tendon derived cells (TCs) viability. The aim of the study was: i) to assess the effective viability of the TCs at the end of the surgical procedure; ii) to investigate if TCs viability and the expression of tendon specific markers may be improved through exposure to prolonged pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMF) similar to that of clinical practice. Remnants of semitendinosus and gracilis tendons (discarded at the end of the ACL reconstruction) were collected from 13 healthy donors. To isolate TCs, the tendon tissue was minced and digested enzymatically with 0.3% type I collagenase in DMEM with continuous agitation for 15 h at 37°C. The isolated nucleated cells were then plated at 5x103 cells/cm2 in a complete medium composed of DMEM, 10% fetal bovine serum, 50 U/ml Penicillin, 50 mg/ml Streptomycin, 2 mM L-glutamine, and supplemented with 5 ng/ml basic fibroblast growth factor (b-FGF). They were maintained at 37 °C in a humidified atmosphere with 5% CO2, changing culture medium every 3 days. When they reached 80-90% of confluence, the cells were detached by incubation with trypsin/EDTA and then cultured at a density of 5x103 cells/cm2. TCs were cultured in complete medium for 7, 14, 21 days (in chamber slides, to optimize the final immunofluorescence analysis). The following cell cultures were set up: i) TCs cultured with differentiation medium + exposure to PEMF 8 h/day; ii) TCs cultured with differentiation medium without exposure to PEMF. The stimulation with PEMF was generated by a pair of electrical coils, connected with the generator of pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMF generator system IGEA, Carpi, Italy, intensity of magnetic field = 1.5 mT, frequency = 75 Hz). At day 0, day 7, day 14 and day 21 immunofluorescence analysis was performed to evaluate the expression of tendon specific markers (collagen type I, collagen type VI, scleraxis) and proliferative markers (PCNA, beta-catenin). The TCs from the hamstring tendon fragments at the end of the ACL reconstruction were alive and they expressed markers of proliferation and tendon phenotype at the end of the culture period. The TCs in the presence of PEMF 8h/day showed a greater production of collagen type I, collagen type VI and scleraxis than TCs cultured without PEMF (p<0.05). The expression of these markers increased from 7 to 21 days of culture. The expression of proliferative markers in the presence of PEMF stimulus was significantly lower (p<0.05) than that of TCs cultured without PEMF. Hamstring tendons are not simple "tenoconductive" scaffolds but biologic alive tenogenic constructs rich in cells that can sustain tenogenic behavior and tendon matrix synthesis. Prolonged exposure to PEMF improves their phenotype. Thus, from a clinical perspective, the use of PEMF may represent a possible future strategy to positively influence the early phase of graft remodeling and, ultimately, improve the ligamentization process. Following these concepts, further studies might also exploit the anabolic role of PEMF as an adjunctive postoperative strategy in different tendon pathologies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-376. Congress of the Italian Orthopaedic Research Society
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Biological Regulators and Homeostatic Agents
Issue number4 Suppl. 3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 3 2020


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