Repair of tendon defect with dermal fibroblast engineered tendon in a porcine model

Tissue Eng. 2006 Apr;12(4):775-88. doi: 10.1089/ten.2006.12.775.


Harvesting autologous tenocytes for tendon engineering may cause secondary tendon defect at the donor site. Dermal fibroblasts are an easily accessible cell source and do not cause major donor site defect. This study aims to explore the possibility of tendon engineering using dermal fibroblasts. A total of 45 hybrid pigs were randomly divided into three groups: experimental group (n = 15)--repair of tendon defect with a dermal fibroblast engineered tendon; control group 1 (n = 15)--repair of defect with a tenocyte engineered tendon; and control group 2 (n = 15)-repair of defect with a scaffold alone. Both autologous dermal fibroblasts and tenocytes were seeded on polyglycolic acid (PGA) unwoven fibers to form a cell-scaffold construct and cultured in vitro for 7 days before in vivo implantation to repair a defect of flexor digital superficial tendon. Specimens were harvested at weeks 6, 14, and 26 for gross, histological, and mechanical analyses. Microscopy revealed good attachment of both dermal fibroblasts and tenocytes on PGA fibers and matrix production. In vivo results showed that fibroblast and tenocyte engineered tendons were similar to each other in their gross view, histology, and tensile strength. At 6 weeks, parallel collagen alignment was observed at both ends, but not in the middle in histology, with more cellular components than natural tendons. At weeks 14 and 26, both engineered tendons exhibited histology similar to that of natural tendon. Collagens became parallel throughout the tendon structure, and PGA fibers were completely degraded. Interestingly, dermal fibroblast and tenocyte engineered tendons did not express type III collagen at 26 weeks, which remained observable in normal pig skin and control group 2 tissue using polarized microscopy, suggesting a possible phenotype change of implanted dermal fibroblasts. Furthermore, both fibroblast and tenocyte engineered tendons shared similar tensile strength, about 75% of natural tendon strength. At 6 weeks in control group 2, neo-tissue was formed only at the peripheral area by host cells. A cord-like tissue was formed at weeks 14 and 26. However, the formed tissue was histologically disorganized and mechanically weaker than both cell-engineered tendons (p < 0.05). These results suggest that dermal fibroblasts may have the potential as seed cells for tendon engineering.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorbable Implants / veterinary
  • Animals
  • Biocompatible Materials*
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Collagen / chemistry
  • Collagen / ultrastructure
  • Extracellular Matrix / chemistry
  • Extracellular Matrix / ultrastructure
  • Fibroblasts / cytology*
  • Fibroblasts / ultrastructure
  • Implants, Experimental / veterinary
  • Polyglycolic Acid / chemistry
  • Random Allocation
  • Swine
  • Tendon Injuries / surgery*
  • Tendons* / cytology
  • Tendons* / growth & development
  • Tendons* / ultrastructure
  • Tensile Strength
  • Time Factors
  • Tissue Engineering / methods*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Biocompatible Materials
  • Polyglycolic Acid
  • Collagen