Rotator cuff tendon tears are one of the most common shoulder pathologies, especially in the aging population. Due to a poor healing response and degenerative changes associated with aging, rotator cuff repair failure remains common. Although cell-based therapies to augment rotator cuff repair appear promising, it is unknown whether the success of such a therapy is age-dependent. We hypothesized that autologous cell therapy would improve tendon-to-bone healing across age groups, with autologous juvenile cells realizing the greatest benefit. In this study, juvenile, adult, and aged rats underwent bilateral supraspinatus tendon repair with augmentation of one shoulder with autologous tendon-derived cell-seeded polycaprolactone scaffolds. At 8 weeks, shoulders treated with cells in both juvenile and aged animals exhibited increased cellularity, increased collagen organization, and improved mechanical properties. No changes between treated and control limbs were seen in adult rats. These findings suggest that cell delivery during supraspinatus repair initiates earlier matrix remodeling in juvenile and aged animals. This may be due to the relative "equilibrium" of adult tendon tissue with regards to catabolic and anabolic processes, contrasted with actively growing juvenile tendons and degenerative aged tendons. This study demonstrates the potential for autologous cell-seeded scaffolds to improve repairs in both the juvenile and aged population. © 2016 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res 35:1250-1257, 2017.
Keywords: aging; animal model; supraspinatus tendon repair cell therapy.
© 2016 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc.