Fixing Shoulder Pain: Harvard Scientists Develop a Method To Restore Damaged


Human Shoulder Muscles

After the use of their tissue platform, the researchers observed regeneration of tissues and shoulder function recovery.

The new complex tissue platform can restore damaged rotator cuffs

The typical office worker often has soreness throughout their body as a result of their sedentary desk jobs. Even young individuals may develop shoulder pain, which was previously primarily an issue for elderly people. Once shoulder pain creeps in, it is difficult to dress oneself, let alone move one’s body freely. It is also difficult to fall asleep. While the rotator cuffs are often naturally harmed as we age, repairing them has shown to be difficult.

Researchers POSTECH and Harvard Medical School

The joint POSTECH and Harvard Medical School research team were responsible for the study. Credit: POSTECH

Through a collaboration with Professor Hak Soo Choi at the Harvard Medical School, a Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) research team made up of Professor Dong-Woo Cho, Dr. Suhun Chae, and Jinah Jang, as well as Professor Jinah Jang and Ph.D. candidate Uijung Yong, has developed a complex tissue platform that can repair damaged rotator cuffs. This platform, which can precisely replicate the intricate structure of rotator cuffs, is 3D-bioprinted using tissue-specific extracellular matrix bioink.

The international journal Bioactive Materials recently published the findings of this study, which could potentially provide patients with chronic shoulder pain renewed hope.

The study team transplanted this platform in rats that had full-thickness rotator cuff injuries.  The researchers observed tissue regeneration and recovery in shoulder function. The results proved that the platform, which includes stem cells, can actually regenerate rotator cuffs.

Notably, the researchers combined tissue-specific bioimaging agents together with near-infrared fluorescence imaging to visualize this process. The researchers were able to use this technique to monitor anatomic change and regeneration processes in the animal model in real time and in a non-invasive fashion.

Restoring Rotator Cuff

A graphic displaying how the researchers restored the shoulder’s rotator cuffs. Credit: POSTECH

This platform offers a microenvironment and components similar to those of the actual tissue. Therefore, once applied to patients, it is expected to have high treatment benefits and eventual recovery of shoulder function. It is particularly beneficial for those patients who cannot use autologous tissues to regenerate rotator cuffs by providing a customized treatment option.

This study was supported by the Nano-materials Core Technology Development project of the National Research Foundation of Korea and the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) in the U.S.

Reference: “3D cell-printing of gradient multi-tissue interfaces for rotator cuff regeneration” by Suhun Chae, Uijung Yong, Wonbin Park, Yoo-mi Choi, In-Ho Jeon, Homan Kang, Jinah Jang, Hak Soo Choi and Dong-Woo Cho, 11 May 2022, Bioactive Materials.
DOI: 10.1016/j.bioactmat.2022.05.004





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