Mesenchymal stromal cells and platelet-rich plasma promote tendon allograft healing in ovine anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction

Adam T. Hexter, Anita Sanghani-Kerai, Nima Heidari, Deepak M. Kalaskar, Ashleigh Boyd, Catherine Pendegrass, Scott A. Rodeo, Fares S. Haddad, Gordon W. Blunn

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Purpose: The effect of bone marrow mesenchymal stromal cells (BMSCs) and platelet-rich plasma (PRP) on tendon allograft maturation in a large animal anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction model was reported for the first time. It was hypothesised that compared with non-augmented ACL reconstruction, BMSCs and PRP would enhance graft maturation after 12 weeks and this would be detected using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).

Methods: Fifteen sheep underwent unilateral tendon allograft ACL reconstruction using aperture fixation and were randomised into three groups (n = 5). Group 1 received 10 million allogeneic BMSCs in 2 ml fibrin sealant; Group 2 received 12 ml PRP in a plasma clot injected into the graft and bone tunnels; and Group 3 (control) received no adjunctive treatment. At autopsy at 12 weeks, a graft maturation score was determined by the sum for graft integrity, synovial coverage and vascularisation, graft thickness and apparent tension, and synovial sealing at tunnel apertures. MRI analysis (n = 2 animals per group) of the signal–noise quotient (SNQ) and fibrous interzone (FIZ) was used to evaluate intra-articular graft maturation and tendon–bone healing, respectively. Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient (r) of SNQ, autopsy graft maturation score and bone tunnel diameter were analysed.

Results: The BMSC group (p = 0.01) and PRP group (p = 0.03) had a significantly higher graft maturation score compared with the control group. The BMSC group scored significantly higher for synovial sealing at tunnel apertures (p = 0.03) compared with the control group. The graft maturation score at autopsy significantly correlated with the SNQ (r = − 0.83, p < 0.01). The tunnel diameter of the femoral tunnel at the aperture (r = 0.883, p = 0.03) and mid-portion (r = 0.941, p = 0.02) positively correlated with the SNQ.

Conclusions: BMSCs and PRP significantly enhanced graft maturation, which indicates that orthobiologics can accelerate the biologic events in tendon allograft incorporation. Femoral tunnel expansion significantly correlated with inferior maturation of the intra-articular graft. The clinical relevance of this study is that BMSCs and PRP enhance allograft healing in a translational model, and biological modulation of graft healing can be evaluated non-invasively using MRI.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages11
JournalKnee Surgery, Sports Traumatology, Arthroscopy
Early online date17 Dec 2020
Publication statusEarly online - 17 Dec 2020


  • Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) reconstruction
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Autopsy
  • Bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stromal cells (BMSCs)
  • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP)
  • Biological modulation


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