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Sports Medicine

Improving the regenerative microenvironment during tendon healing by using nanostructured fibrin/agarose-based hydrogels in a rat Achilles tendon injury model

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Achilles tendon injuries are a frequent problem in orthopaedic surgery due to their limited healing capacity and the controversy surrounding surgical treatment. In recent years, tissue engineering research has focused on the development of biomaterials to improve this healing process. The aim of this study was to analyze the effect of tendon augmentation with a nanostructured fibrin-agarose hydrogel (NFAH) or genipin cross-linked nanostructured fibrin-agarose hydrogel (GP-NFAH), on the healing process of the Achilles tendon in rats.


NFAH, GP-NFAH, and MatriDerm (control) scaffolds were generated (five in each group). A biomechanical and cell-biomaterial-interaction characterization of these biomaterials was then performed: Live/Dead Cell Viability Assay, water-soluble tetrazolium salt-1 (WST-1) assay, and DNA-released after 48 hours. Additionally, a complete section of the left Achilles tendon was made in 24 Wistar rats. Animals were separated into four treatment groups (six in each group): direct repair (Control), tendon repair with MatriDerm, or NFAH, or GP-NFAH. Animals were euthanized for further histological analyses after four or eight weeks post-surgery. The Achilles tendons were harvested and a histopathological analysis was performed.


Tensile test revealed that NFAH and GP-NFAH had significantly higher overall biomechanical properties compared with MatriDerm. Moreover, biological studies confirmed a high cell viability in all biomaterials, especially in NFAH. In addition, in vivo evaluation of repaired tendons using biomaterials (NFAH, GP-NFAH, and MatriDerm) resulted in better organization of the collagen fibres and cell alignment without clinical complications than direct repair, with a better histological score in GP-NFAH.


In this animal model we demonstrated that NFAH and GP-NFAH had the potential to improve tendon healing following a surgical repair. However, future studies are needed to determine the clinical usefulness of these engineered strategies.

Cite this article: Bone Joint J 2020;102-B(8):1095–1106.

Correspondence should be sent to F. Campos; E-mail:

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