Tendon injuries are a common cause of lameness and wastage in horses. The conventional and most widely spread therapy for tendonitis in the horse involves administration of anti-inflammatory drugs and introduction of a controlled exercise program adjusted by regular ultrasonographic examinations. However, the healing process is very slow and results in the formation of scar tissue, which is functional inferior compared to normal tendon tissue. This has important consequences for the animal in terms of reduced performance and a substantial risk of re-injury.
The aim of our group is to develop cell-based treatment strategies to enhance tendon healing in the horse resulting in a shorter convalescence period and an improved quality of repair tissue, thereby reducing the risk of relapse. To evaluate this therapeutic concept, unanswered questions, like differentiation capacity of applied cells, mode of action and most suitable application format need to be addressed. In a first step, we aim to identify the most suitable cells source to produce tendon tissue. Therefore, mesenchymal stem cells derived from bone marrow, adipocyte tissue and the umbilical cord as well as fetal cells will be evaluated morphologically and histologically regarding their potential to differentiate into tenocytes in a three-dimensional tendon model system. Subsequently, the regenerative capacity of the four cell candidates will be investigated in vivo in an acute injury tendon regeneration model in mice. In the same animal model, different application forms, e.g. single cell injections and injections of micro-tissues, will be compared.