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CWRU engineer to grow replacement tissue for torn rotator cuffs

His lab uses electrical currents to align collagen threads, mimicking the natural tendon and making the threads dense and strong as a tendon. And his team can make threads in bulk, which would enable manufacturers to make spools of the materialenough to accommodate hundreds of thousands of surgeries.

Woven threads are sufficiently strong to be surgically handled and sutured in place and be fully load-bearing, Akkus said. "This would enable a patient to begin physical therapy and remobilization quickly," he said.

Growing tendon tissue

The threads alone could be used as sutures to repair simple tears. But when more tendon material is needed, adult mesenchymal stem cells placed on the aligned collagen differentiate toward tendon cells without highly regulated growth factors, which also carry undesirable side effects or other chemicals.

Akkus' lab will investigate why differentiation occurs and whether other factors, such as mechanical stress, may further induce the stem cells to develop into tendon.

They will also test whether mesenchymal stem cells in bone marrow could complete a repair. They will drill holes in bone, tie collagen scaffolds through the holes and try to coax stem cells to spread over the scaffold and grow.

If this fails, they will seed cells on a scaffold in a petri dish and allow them to grow for a few weeks before implanting the biomaterial.

The researchers believe the technology will be useful for more than tendons. For example, mesh sheets woven with controlled pore size and geometry could be used to repair hernias or urinary incontinence. Sheets of collagen could be cast in molds of an ear or nose, for replacements for patients who suffered trauma or devastating tumors.

In his tendon project, Akkus is working with graduate research assistants Mousa Younesi and Anowarul Islam. He is collaborating with James M. Anderson, professor of pathology at Case Wester

Contact: Kevin Mayhood
Case Western Reserve University

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