Discovery: tendon stem cells could revolutionize wound healing

Researchers have discovered, for the first time ever, tendinous stem cells. These undifferentiated cells could help us revolutionize the way we treat tendon injuries, while avoiding surgery.

Following an injury, the accumulation of scar tissue causes the recovery of a damaged rotator cuff, a knee of the jumper (patellar tendon injury), as well as other tendon injuries becomes a painful and difficult process , which can also (often) lead to secondary rupture of the tendons.

" Tendons are connective tissues that bind our muscles to our bones. They improve our stability and facilitate the transfer of force that allows us to move. But they are also particularly susceptible to injury, "said Fan.

Unfortunately, once the tendons are injured, they rarely recover completely, which can limit mobility and require long-term pain management, or even surgery. Why ? Because of fibrous scars, which disturb the tissue structure of the tendon.

Working with Tyler Harvey and Sara Flamenco from Carnegie-Mellon University, USA, Fan has revealed all types of cells found in the patellar tendon, located beneath the patella, including the stem cells of the United States. tendon (previously undefined).

" Since tendon injuries are only rarely completely cured, it was thought that the stem cells of the tendon might actually not exist,  " said lead author Harvey. "  Many researchers have looked for them in vain, but our work has defined them for the very first time,  " he added.

You should know that stem cells are so-called "virgin" (or undifferentiated) cells, associated with almost all types of tissues. They are not yet (or not entirely) "programmed" to fulfill a specific function. These cells can also self-renew, creating a real pool from which different types of newly differentiated cells can be formed, in order to support the function of a specific tissue.

For example, muscle stem cells can differentiate into muscle cells. But until now, the stem cells of the tendon remained unknown.

But today, the team's research has shown that the cells of the scar tissue (fibrous) and tendon stem cells have a similar origin: indeed, they come from the same place, or the protective cells that surround them. tendons. In addition, these tendon stem cells are part of a so-called competitive system, with precursors of fibrous scars, which explains why the healing of the tendons is so complicated.

The research team has demonstrated that stem cells and stem cells of scar tissue are stimulated by a protein known as platelet-derived growth factor. When tendon stem cells are modified so that they do not respond to this growth factor, only scar tissue (and no new tendon cells) will form after injury. Such behavior could be replicated in order to improve healing of tendon tissues.

" Tendinous stem cells exist, but they must supplant precursors of scar tissue to prevent the formation of fibrous and difficult scars. Finding a therapeutic way to block scar cells and improve tendon stem cells could be a game changer for treating tendon injury  , "said Fan.


Article: A Tppp3+Pdgfra+ tendon stem cell population contributes to regeneration and reveals a shared role for PDGF signalling in regeneration and fibrosis

Authors: Tyler Harvey, Sara Flamenco & Chen-Ming Fan

Nature Cell Biology (2019)

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