A Case Western Reserve University engineer has won a $1.7 million National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant to grow replacement rotator cuffs and other large tendon groups to help heal injured soldiers and athletes, accident victims and an aging population that wants to remain active.
Ozan Akkus, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, has already devised a technique to reconstitute collagena building block of tendonsinto tough fibers and induce adult stem cells to grow into tendons on those fibers.
"This is a concept that works on a lab bench," Akkus said. "We will refine the concept and test the validity on an animal model."
"Following completion of that, we may be in position for clinical applications," he continued.
Tendons are the sinew that tie muscle to bone, enabling us to push and pull, run and jump or, in the case of the rotator cuff, throw a ball or a mundane task such as reaching up to a shelf. But the cuff is susceptible to wear and damage.
The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons reports that nearly 200,000 Americans require shoulder surgery to repair damaged rotator cuffs annually. The failure rate for repairs exceeds 20 percent, with the rate being highest for the largest tears.
A better fix
"A simple detachment, doctors suture back in place," Akkus said. "But if the body or bulk of the tendon is damaged and there is not enough tendon to reattach, we need to regenerate bulk volume of the tendon."
To achieve that, the NIH grant will allow Akkus and a team of doctors and researchers to conduct basic science and translational work during the next five years.
At the heart of tendons is collagen, which is in skin, teeth, bones and ligaments of many species and is therefore accepted by the immune system. But, "normally, when you reconstitute collagen, it's as strong as Jell-O," Akkus said. "For a tendon, that's not an option."
|Contact: Kevin Mayhood|
Case Western Reserve University