Tendon progenitor cells as biological augmentation improve functional gait and reduce scar formation after rotator cuff repair

Alexander J. Vervaecke, Andrew D. Carbone, Adam Abraham, Zachary Bernstein, Damien Laudier, Olivier Verborgt, Leesa M. Galatz, Alice H. Huang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: High rates of structural failure are reported after rotator cuff repairs due to inability to recreate the native enthesis during healing. The development of biological augmentation methods that mitigate scar formation and regenerate the enthesis is still an unmet need. Since neonatal enthesis is capable of regeneration after injury, this study tested whether delivery of neonatal tendon progenitor cells (TPCs) into the adult injured environment can enhance functional and structural supraspinatus enthesis and tendon healing. Methods: TPCs were isolated from Ai14 Rosa26-TdTomato mouse Achilles tendons and labeled using adenovirus-Cre. Fifty-two CB57BL/6J mice underwent detachment and acute repair of the supraspinatus tendon and received either a fibrin-only or TPC-fibrin gel. Immunofluorescence analysis was carried out to determine cellularity (DAPI), fibrocartilage (SOX9), macrophages (F4/80), myofibroblasts (α-smooth muscle actin), and scar (laminin). Assays for function (gait and biomechanical testing) and structure (micro–computed tomography imaging, picrosirius red/Alcian Blue staining, type I and III collagen staining) were carried out. Results: Analysis of TdTomato cells after injury showed minimal retention of TPCs by day 7 and day 14, with detected cells localized near the bursa and deltoid rather than the enthesis/tendon. However, TPC delivery led to significantly increased %Sox9+ cells in the enthesis at day 7 after injury and decreased laminin intensity across almost all time points compared to fibrin-only treatment. Similarly, TPC-treated mice showed gait recovery by day 14 (paw area and stride length) and day 28 (stance time), while fibrin-treated mice failed to recover gait parameters. Despite improved gait, biomechanical testing showed no differences between groups. Structural analysis by micro–computed tomography suggests that TPC application improves cortical thickness after surgery compared to fibrin. Superior collagen alignment at the neo-enthesis was also observed in the TPC-augmented group at day 28, but no difference was detected in type I and III collagen intensity. Conclusion: We found that neonatal TPCs improved and restored functional gait by reducing overall scar formation, improving enthesis collagen alignment, and altering bony composition response after supraspinatus tendon repair. TPCs did not appear to integrate into the healing tissue, suggesting improved healing may be due to paracrine effects at early stages. Future work will determine the factors secreted by TPCs to develop translational targets.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2366-2380
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2022


  • Basic Science Study
  • In Vivo Animal Model
  • Rotator cuff tear
  • biological augmentation
  • enthesis
  • functional healing
  • rotator cuff repair
  • scar formation
  • shoulder surgery
  • tendon progenitor cells


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