Rotator cuff tears are among the most common orthopedic injuries among adults in the United States, due to wear and tear or the effects of age. With a 94 percent failure rate for surgical repairs of large tears in older patients, it's no surprise that the injury is a major cause of pain and disability.
With a five-year, $3.1 million grant from the National Institutes of Health, orthopedic researchers and engineers at Washington University in St. Louis are working to discover a better way to improve the outcome of surgical repairs by studying the natural attachment of tendon to bone. This understanding could lead to the engineering of new tissues that could enhance cuff repair.
"Every motion you make is related to the attachment of tendon to bone," says Guy Genin, PhD, professor of mechanical engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science. "The muscle is attached to the tendon, and the tendon is attached to the bone. Any break in the linkage will prevent motion, so this attachment is vital to the way the body works."
The rotator cuff is a group of four tendons and muscles that connect the large arm bone to the shoulder. Surgeons repair large tears in the rotator cuff by removing any transitional tissue left behind at the injury site and suturing the tendon directly to the bone.
"The natural attachment system is not regenerated during healing, even following surgical repair," says Stavros Thomopoulous, PhD, associate professor of orthopaedic surgery in the School of Medicine. "The healing process leads to scar tissue formation at the healing tendon-to-bone interface, and the resulting attachment is prone to re-injury."
Thomopoulous and Genin are leading an interdisciplinary and multi-institutional group of researchers to reverse-engineer the tendon-to-bone attachment, looking at the toughness and resilience of the tissues to better understand how the natural tendon-to-bone insertion works and what go
|Contact: Jim Dryden|
Washington University in St. Louis