Due to their unique hierarchical structure and composition, tendons possess characteristic biomechanical properties, including high mechanical strength and viscoelasticity, which enable them to carry and transmit mechanical loads (muscular forces) effectively. Tendons are also mechanoresponsive by adaptively changing their structure and function in response to altered mechanical loading conditions. In general, mechanical loading at physiological levels is beneficial to tendons, but excessive loading or disuse of tendons is detrimental. This mechanoadaptability is due to the cells present in tendons. Tendon fibroblasts (tenocytes) are the dominant tendon cells responsible for tendon homeostasis and repair. Tendon stem cells (TSCs), which were recently discovered, also play a vital role in tendon maintenance and repair by virtue of their ability to self-renew and differentiate into tenocytes. TSCs may also be responsible for chronic tendon injury, or tendinopathy, by undergoing aberrant differentiation into nontenocytes in response to excessive mechanical loading. Thus, it is necessary to devise optimal rehabilitation protocols to enhance tendon healing while reducing scar tissue formation and tendon adhesions. Moreover, along with scaffolds that can mimic tendon matrix environments and platelet-rich plasma, which serves as a source of growth factors, TSCs may be the optimal cell type for enhancing repair of injured tendons.
Copyright © 2012 Hanley & Belfus. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.