Theses Doctoral

Nanofiber-Based Scaffold for Integrative Rotator Cuff Repair

Zhang, Xinzhi

Functional integration of bone with soft tissues such as tendon is essential for joint motion and musculoskeletal function. This is evident in the rotator cuff of the shoulder, which consists of four muscles and their associated tendons that connect the humerus and scapula. The cuff functions to stabilize the shoulder joint, and actively controls shoulder kinematics. Rotator cuff injuries often occur as a result of tendon avulsion at the tendon-bone interface, with more than 250,000 cuff repair surgeries performed annually in the United States. However, these procedures are associated with a high failure rate, as re-tears often occur due to the lack of biological fixation of the tendon to bone post-surgery. Instead of regenerating the tendon-bone interface, current repair techniques and augmentation grafts focus on improving the load bearing capability of the repaired rotator cuff. Biologically, the supraspinatus tendon inserts into bone via a biphasic fibrocartilaginous transition, exhibiting region-dependent changes in its compositional, structural and mechanical properties, which enables efficient load transfer from tendon to bone as well as multi-tissue homeostasis. Inspired by the native tendon-bone interface, we have designed and evaluated a biomimetic bilayer scaffold, comprised of electrospun poly (lactide-co-glycolide) (PLGA) nanofibers seamlessly integrated with PLGA-hydroxyapatite (HA) fibers, in order to engineer tendon-bone integration.
The objective of this thesis is to explore the key design parameters that are critical for integrative tendon-bone repair using this biphasic scaffold as a model. Specifically, intrinsic to the scaffold, effects of fiber alignment, fiber diameter, mineral distribution, and polymer composition on integrative rotator cuff tendon-bone healing were evaluated in vivo using a rat model. Results indicated that an aligned, nanofiber-based scaffold with a distinct order of non-mineralized and mineralized regions will lead to insertion regeneration and integrative tendon-bone repair. Additional tissue engineering design parameters such as healing time and animal model were also tested. It was observed that the biphasic scaffold exhibited a stable long term response, as the mechanical properties of rat shoulders repaired by this scaffold remained comparable to that of the control at 20 weeks post-surgery. This scaffold was also evaluated in a large animal model (sheep), in which a clinically-relevant rotator cuff repair procedure was implemented with the biphasic scaffold. Results demonstrated the scaffold lead to integrative rotator cuff repair through the regeneration of the enthesis in both small and large animal models.
In summary, through a series of in vivo studies, the work of this thesis has identified the critical tissue engineering parameters for integrative and functional rotator cuff tendon repair. More importantly, the design principles elucidated here are anticipated to have a broader impact in the field of tissue engineering, as they can be readily applied towards the regeneration of other soft-hard tissue interfaces.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Biomedical Engineering
Thesis Advisors
Lu, Helen H.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
November 18, 2015