Tissue engineering approaches to develop decellularized tendon matrices functionalized with progenitor cells cultured under undifferentiated and tenogenic conditions

Daniele D'Arrigo, Marta Bottagisio, Silvia Lopa, Matteo Moretti, Arianna B. Lovati

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Tendon ruptures and retractions with an extensive tissue loss represent a major clinical problem and a great challenge in surgical reconstruction. Traditional approaches consist in autologous or allogeneic grafts, which still have some drawbacks. Hence, tissue engineering strategies aimed at developing functionalized tendon grafts. In this context, the use of xenogeneic tissues represents a promising perspective to obtain decellularized tendon grafts. This study is focused on the identification of suitable culture conditions for the generation of reseeded and functional decellularized constructs to be used as tendon grafts. Equine superficial digital flexor tendons were decellularized, reseeded with mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) from bone marrow and statically cultured in two different culture media to maintain undifferentiated cells (U-MSCs) or to induce a terminal tenogenic differentiation (T-MSCs) for 24 hours, 7 and 14 days. Cell viability, proliferation, morphology as well as matrix deposition and type I and III collagen production were assessed by means of histological, immunohistochemical and semi-quantitative analyses. Results showed that cell viability was not affected by any culture conditions and active proliferation was maintained 14 days after reseeding. However, seeded MSCs were not able to penetrate within the dense matrix of the decellularized tendons. Nevertheless, U-MSCs synthesized a greater amount of extracellular matrix rich in type I collagen compared to T-MSCs. In spite of the inability to deeply colonize the decellularized matrix in vitro, reseeding tendon matrices with U-MSCs could represent a suitable method for the functionalization of biological constructs, considering also any potential chemoattractant capability of the newly deposed extracellular matrix to recruit resident cells. This bioengineering approach can be exploited to produce functionalized tendon constructs for the substitution of large tendon defects.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-445
Number of pages15
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017



  • decellularized tendon
  • undifferentiated mesenchymal stem cells (U-MSCs)
  • extracellular matrix
  • type I collagen
  • tenogenic differentiation (T-MSCs)
  • functionalized tendon constructs
  • cell repopulation and static culture

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