At the postgraduate seminar in May 2022, Ph.D. student Wanqi ZHANG, supervised by Prof. Rocky TUAN and Prof. Dan WANG, presented his findings on The development of a biologically and biomechanically stimulated, tough hydrogel biomaterial for tendon repair.

Due to overuse or age-related degeneration, tendon injuries have become a common clinical problem. However, tendon healing is slow due to the lack of sufficient cells and vascular, often accompanied by fibrotic scarring and adhesion formation. To date, mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) have been extensively studied and are considered as a promising new intervention for tendon repair and regeneration. However, concerns exist such as off-target bone formation after MSC implantation for treating tendon injuries. Thus, this highlights a need to precisely induce MSCs to tendon-specific differentiation ex vivo prior to implantation.

ZHANG’s research addresses this issue by developing a tough hydrogel system that combined biochemical (tendon-derived extracellular matrix (tECM)) and biomechanical (cycle tensile loading (CTL)) cues to direct adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs) differentiate towards tenocytes in vitro and support robust and precise tendon regeneration in vivo. This hydrogel not only serves as a platform to induce reliable tenogenic differentiation of stem cells, but can also be used as a tendon biomaterial scaffold to enhance stem cell therapy for augmenting tendon regeneration.