Aim: This study was designed to investigate the effect of novel 3-dimensional (3-D) collagen implants on the healing of large, experimentally-induced, tendon-defects in rabbits.
Methods: Forty mature male white New Zealand rabbits were divided randomly into treated and control groups. Two cm of the left Achilles tendon was excised and the gap was spanned by Kessler suture. In the treated group, a novel 3-D collagen implant was inserted between the cut ends of the tendon. No implant was used in the control group. During the course of the experiment the bioelectrical characteristics of the healing and normal tendons of both groups were investigated weekly. At 120 days post injury (DPI), the tendons were dissected and inspected for gross pathology, examined by transmission and scanning electron microscopy, and their biomechanical properties, percentage dry matter and hydroxyproline concentration assessed.
Results: The collagen implant significantly improved the bioelectrical characteristics, gross appearance and tissue alignment of the healed, treated tendons, compared to the healed, control scars. It also significantly increased fibrillogenesis, diameter and density of the collagen fibrils, dry matter content, hydroxyproline concentration, maximum load, stiffness, stress and modulus of elasticity of the treated tendons, as compared to the control tendons. Treatment also significantly decreased peri-tendinous adhesions, and improved the hierarchical organization of the tendon from the collagen fibril to fibre-bundle level. 3-D xenogeneic-based collagen implants induced newly regenerated tissue that was ultrastructurally and biomechanically superior to tissue that was regenerated by natural unassisted healing.
Conclusion: This type of bioimplant was biocompatible, biodegradable and appeared suitable for clinical use.