Autograft Long Head Biceps Tendon Can Be Used as a Scaffold for Biologically Augmenting Rotator Cuff Repairs

Arthroscopy. 2022 Jan;38(1):38-48. doi: 10.1016/j.arthro.2021.05.064. Epub 2021 Jun 12.


Purpose: We create a viable, mechanically expanded autograft long head biceps tendon (LHBT) scaffold for biologically augmenting the repair of torn rotator cuffs.

Methods: The proximal aspect of the tenotomized LHBTs was harvested from patients during rotator cuff repair surgery and was mechanically formed into porous scaffolds using a surgical graft expander. LHBT scaffolds were evaluated for change in area, tensile properties, and tenocyte viability before and after expansion. The ability of endogenous tenocytes derived from the LHBT scaffold to promote tenogenic differentiation of human adipose-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (ADMSCs) was also determined.

Results: Autograft LHBTs were successfully expanded using a modified surgical graft expander to create a porous scaffold containing viable resident tenoctyes from patients undergoing rotator cuff repair. LHBT scaffolds had significantly increased area (length: 24.91 mm [13.91, 35.90] × width: 22.69 mm [1.87, 34.50]; P = .011) compared with the native LHBT tendon (length: 27.16 mm [2.70, 33.62] × width: 6.68 mm [5.62, 7.74]). The structural properties of the autograft were altered, including the ultimate tensile strength (LHBT scaffold: .56 MPa [.06, 1.06] vs. native LHBT: 2.35 MPa [1.36, 3.33]; P = .002) and tensile modulus (LHBT scaffold: 4.72 MPa [-.80, 1.24] versus native LHBT: 37.17 MPa [24.56, 49.78]; P = .001). There was also a reduction in resident tenocyte percent viability (LHBT scaffold: 38.52% [17.94, 59.09] vs. native LHBT: 68.87% [63.67, 74.37]; P =.004). Tenocytes derived from the LHBT scaffold produced soluble signals that initiated ADMSC differentiation into an immature tenocyte-like phenotype, as indicated by an 8.7× increase in scleraxis (P = .040) and a 3.6× increase in collagen type III mRNA expression (P = .050) compared with undifferentiated ADMSC controls.

Conclusions: The ability to produce a viable autologous scaffold from the proximal biceps tendon having dimensions, porosity, mechanical characteristics, native ECM components, and viable tenocytes that produce bioactive signals conducive to supporting the biologic augmentation of rotator cuff repair surgery has been demonstrated.

Clinical relevance: This biologically active construct may help to improve the quality of healing and regeneration at the repair site of rotator cuff tears, especially those at high risk for retear.

Keywords: autograft; biceps tendon; biologic augmentation; cuff repair; mesenchymal stromal cells rotator; scaffolds; tissue engineering.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Arthroscopy
  • Autografts
  • Humans
  • Rotator Cuff Injuries*
  • Rotator Cuff* / surgery
  • Tendons