Background: Adipose tissue is a promising source of mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) for the treatment of tendon disease. The goal of this study was to assess the effect of a single intralesional implantation of adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (AT-MSCs) on artificial lesions in equine superficial digital flexor tendons (SDFTs).
Methods: During this randomized, controlled, blinded experimental study, either autologous cultured AT-MSCs suspended in autologous inactivated serum (AT-MSC-serum) or autologous inactivated serum (serum) were injected intralesionally 2 weeks after surgical creation of centrally located SDFT lesions in both forelimbs of nine horses. Healing was assessed clinically and with ultrasound (standard B-mode and ultrasound tissue characterization) at regular intervals over 24 weeks. After euthanasia of the horses the SDFTs were examined histologically, biochemically and by means of biomechanical testing.
Results: AT-MSC implantation did not substantially influence clinical and ultrasonographic parameters. Histology, biochemical and biomechanical characteristics of the repair tissue did not differ significantly between treatment modalities after 24 weeks. Compared with macroscopically normal tendon tissue, the content of the mature collagen crosslink hydroxylysylpyridinoline did not differ after AT-MSC-serum treatment (p = 0.074) while it was significantly lower (p = 0.027) in lesions treated with serum alone. Stress at failure (p = 0.048) and the modulus of elasticity (p = 0.001) were significantly lower after AT-MSC-serum treatment than in normal tendon tissue.
Conclusions: The effect of a single intralesional injection of cultured AT-MSCs suspended in autologous inactivated serum was not superior to treatment of surgically created SDFT lesions with autologous inactivated serum alone in a surgical model of tendinopathy over an observation period of 22 weeks. AT-MSC treatment might have a positive influence on collagen crosslinking of remodelling scar tissue. Controlled long-term studies including naturally occurring tendinopathies are necessary to verify the effects of AT-MSCs on tendon disease.
Keywords: Biochemistry; Biomechanical testing; Histology; Horse; MSC, mesenchymal stem cells; Tendon; Ultrasonography; Ultrasound tissue characterization.