Engineering a cell-hydrogel-fibre composite to mimic the structure and function of the tendon synovial sheath

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The repair of tendon injuries is often compromised by post-operative peritendinous adhesions. Placing a physical barrier at the interface between the tendon and the surrounding tissue could potentially solve this problem by reducing adhesion formation. At present, no such system is available for routine use in clinical practice. Here, we propose the development of a bilayer membrane combining a nanofibrous poly(ε-caprolactone) (PCL) electrospun mesh with a layer of self-assembling peptide hydrogel (SAPH) laden with type-B synoviocytes. This bilayer membrane would act as an anti-adhesion system capable of restoring tendon lubrication, while assisting with synovial sheath regeneration. The PCL mesh showed adequate mechanical properties (Young's modulus=19±4 MPa, ultimate tensile stress=9.6±1.7 MPa, failure load=0.5±0.1 N), indicating that the membrane is easy to handle and capable to withstand the frictional forces generated on the tendon's surface during movement (∼0.3 N). Morphological analysis confirmed the generation of a mesh with nanosized PCL fibres and small pores (< 3 μm), which prevented fibroblast infiltration to impede extrinsic healing but still allowing diffusion of nutrients and waste. Rheological tests showed that incorporation of SAPH layer allows good lubrication properties when the membrane is articulated against porcine tendon or hypodermis, suggesting that restoration of tendon gliding is possible upon implantation. Moreover, viability and metabolic activity tests indicated that the SAPH was conducive to rabbit synoviocyte growth and proliferation over 28 days of 3D culture, sustaining cell production of specific matrix components, particularly hyaluronic acid. Synoviocyte-laden peptide hydrogel promoted a sustained endogenous production of hyaluronic acid, providing an anti-friction layer that potentially restores the tendon gliding environment.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
JournalActa Biomaterialia
Early online date13 Nov 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Nov 2020