Can Genipin-coated Sutures Deliver a Collagen Crosslinking Agent to Improve Suture Pullout in Degenerated Tendon? An Ex Vivo Animal Study

Clin Orthop Relat Res. 2018 May;476(5):1104-1113. doi: 10.1007/s11999.0000000000000247.


Background: The suture-tendon interface is often the weakest link in tendon-to-tendon or tendon-to-bone repair. Genipin is an exogenous collagen crosslink agent derived from the gardenia fruit that can enhance suture force to failure of the tendon-suture interface. Viable methods for intraoperative clinical delivery of genipin could be of clinical utility, but to our knowledge have not yet been extensively studied.

Questions/purposes: The purposes of this study were (1) to evaluate whether sutures precoated with genipin can augment the suture-tendon interface to improve force to failure, stiffness, and work to failure in healthy and degenerated tendons; and (2) to determine the effect of genipin on the extent and distribution of crosslinking.

Methods: Single-stitch suture pullout tests were performed ex vivo on 25 bovine superficial digital flexor tendons. To assess effects on native tissue, one group of 12 tendons was cut in proximal and distal halves and randomized to treatment (n = 12) and control groups (n = 12) in a matched-pair design. One simple stitch with a loop with either a normal suture or genipin-coated suture was applied to tendons in both groups. To simulate a degenerative tendon condition, a second group of 13 tendons was cut in proximal and distal halves, injected with 0.2 mL of collagenase D (8 mg/mL) and incubated for 24 hours before suturing with either a genipin-coated suture (n = 13) or their matched controls (n = 13). Sutures from all groups then were loaded to failure on a universal materials testing machine 24 hours after suturing. Suture pullout force, stiffness, and work to failure were calculated from force-displacement data and compared between the groups. Additionally, fluorescence was measured to determine the degree of crosslinking quantitatively and a qualitative analysis of the distribution pattern was performed by microscopy.

Results: In healthy tendon pairs, the median maximum pullout force was greater with genipin-coated sutures than with control sutures (median, 42 N [range, 24-73 N] versus 29 N [range, 13-48 N]; difference of medians, 13 N; p = 0.003) with corresponding increases in the required work to failure (median, 275 mJ [range, 48-369 mJ] versus 148 mJ [range, 83-369 mJ]; difference of medians, 127 mJ; p = 0.025) but not stiffness (median, 4.1 N/mm [range, 2.3-8.1 N/mm] versus 3.3 N/mm [range, 1.1-9.6 N/mm]; difference of medians, 0.8 N/mm; p = 0.052). In degenerated tendons, median maximum pullout force was greater with genipin-coated sutures than with control sutures (median, 16 N [range, 9-36 N] versus 13 N [range, 5-28 N]; difference of medians, 3 N; p = 0.034) with no differences in work to failure (median, 75 mJ [range, 11-249 mJ] versus 53 mJ [range, 14-143 mJ]; difference of medians, 22 mJ; p = 0.636) or stiffness (median, 1.9 N/mm [range, 0.7-13.4 N/mm] versus 1.6 N/mm [range, 0.5-5.6 N/mm]; difference of medians, 0.3 N/mm; p = 0.285). Fluorescence was higher in tendons treated with genipin-coated sutures compared with the control group, whereas higher fluorescence was observed in the treated healthy compared with the degenerated tendons (difference of means -3.16; standard error 1.08; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.97-5.34; p = 0.006/healthy genipin: mean 13.04; standard error 0.78; 95% CI, 11.47-14.62; p < 0.001/degenerated genipin: mean 9.88; SD 0.75; 95% CI, 8.34-11.40; p < 0.001).

Conclusions: Genipin-coated sutures improved force to failure of a simple stitch at the tendon-suture interface in healthy and degenerated tendons in an ex vivo animal model. Fluorescence was higher in tendons treated with genipin-coated sutures compared with the control group.

Clinical relevance: A genipin-coated suture represents a potential delivery vehicle for exogenous crosslink agents to augment suture retention properties. In vivo animal studies are the next logical step to assess safety and efficacy of the approach.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Coated Materials, Biocompatible*
  • Collagen / metabolism*
  • Cross-Linking Reagents / administration & dosage
  • Cross-Linking Reagents / pharmacology*
  • Equipment Design
  • Equipment Failure
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Iridoids / administration & dosage
  • Iridoids / pharmacology*
  • Materials Testing
  • Suture Techniques / instrumentation*
  • Sutures*
  • Tendons / metabolism
  • Tendons / pathology
  • Tendons / surgery*


  • Coated Materials, Biocompatible
  • Cross-Linking Reagents
  • Iridoids
  • Collagen
  • genipin