Integrating soft and hard tissues via interface tissue engineering

J Orthop Res. 2018 Apr;36(4):1069-1077. doi: 10.1002/jor.23810. Epub 2018 Jan 5.


The enthesis, or interface between bone and soft tissues such as ligament and tendon, is prone to injury and often does not heal, even post surgical intervention. Interface tissue engineering represents an integrative strategy for regenerating the native enthesis by functionally connecting soft and hard tissues and thereby improving clinical outcome. This review focuses on integrative and cell-instructive scaffold designs that target the healing of the two most commonly injured soft tissue-bone junctions: tendon-bone interface (e.g., rotator cuff) and ligament-bone interface (e.g., anterior cruciate ligament). The inherent connectivity between soft and hard tissues is instrumental for musculoskeletal motion and is therefore a key design criterion for soft tissue regeneration. To this end, scaffold design for soft tissue regeneration have progressed from single tissue systems to the emerging focus on pre-integrated and functional composite tissue units. Specifically, a multifaceted, bioinspired approach has been pursued wherein scaffolds are tailored to stimulate relevant cell responses using spatially patterned structural and chemical cues, growth factors, and/or mechanical stimulation. Moreover, current efforts to elucidate the essential scaffold design criteria via strategic biomimicry are emphasized as these will reduce complexity in composite tissue regeneration and ease the related burden for clinical translation. These innovative studies underscore the clinical relevance of engineering connective tissue integration and have broader impact in the formation of complex tissues and total joint regeneration. © 2017 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res 36:1069-1077, 2018.

Keywords: biomaterials; hard-to-soft-tissue repair; igament; tendon; tissue engineering.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Composite Tissue Allografts*
  • Enthesopathy / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Ligaments / physiology
  • Tendons / physiology
  • Tissue Engineering*
  • Tissue Scaffolds*
  • Wound Healing*