Electrospun PCL/Gel-aligned scaffolds enhance the biomechanical strength in tendon repair†
Tendons can transmit mechanical force from muscles to bones for movement. However, the mechanical strength of tendons is compromised after surgery, thus causing a high rate of tendon retear. Hence, the design and preparation of biodegradable materials with excellent mechanical properties have become an urgent demand for sports medicine. In this study, biomimetic polycaprolactone (PCL)/gelatin (Gel)-aligned scaffolds were fabricated for the mechanical restoration of the injured tendon in a rabbit model. The diameter of nanofibers was about 427.82 ± 56.99 nm, which was approximate to that of the native collagen fibrils; the directional consistency of the nanofibers in PCL/Gel-aligned scaffolds reached 77.33 ± 3.22%, which were ultrastructurally biomimetic. Compared to the observations for the control group, the in vitro mechanical results showed that the PCL/Gel-aligned scaffolds (P/G-A) were anisotropic in terms of failure load, tensile strength, and Young's modulus. After verifying their good cytocompatibility, the scaffolds were implanted into the rabbit patellar tendon in situ. The biomechanical properties of the repaired tendon in P/G-A reached 343.97 ± 65.30 N in failure load, 85.99 ± 16.33 MPa in tensile strength, 590.84 ± 201.87 MPa in Young's modulus, and 171.29 ± 61.50 N mm−1 in stiffness in vivo at 8 weeks post operation. In a word, our results demonstrated that P/G-A could support the regenerated tissue of injured patellar tendons to restore the biomechanical strength in a rabbit model. This suggested that the PCL/Gel-aligned scaffolds can pave a promising way to improve the healing of injured tendons in the clinic in the future.