Current clinical treatment options for symptomatic, partial-thickness rotator cuff tear (sPTRCT) offer only limited potential for true tissue healing and improvement of clinical results. In animal models, injections of adult stem cells isolated from adipose tissue into tendon injuries evidenced histological regeneration of tendon tissue. However, it is unclear whether such beneficial effects could also be observed in a human tendon treated with fresh, uncultured, autologous, adipose derived regenerative cells (UA-ADRCs). A specific challenge in this regard is that UA-ADRCs cannot be labeled and, thus, not unequivocally identified in the host tissue. Therefore, histological regeneration of injured human tendons after injection of UA-ADRCs must be assessed using comprehensive, immunohistochemical and microscopic analysis of biopsies taken from the treated tendon a few weeks after injection of UA-ADRCs.

Case summary:
A 66-year-old patient suffered from sPTRCT affecting the right supraspinatus and infraspinatus tendon, caused by a bicycle accident. On day 18 post injury [day 16 post magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examination] approximately 100 g of abdominal adipose tissue was harvested by liposuction, from which approximately 75 × 106 UA-ADRCs were isolated within 2 h. Then, UA-ADRCs were injected (controlled by biplanar X-ray imaging) adjacent to the injured supraspinatus tendon immediately after isolation. Despite fast clinical recovery, a follow-up MRI examination 2.5 mo post treatment indicated the need for open revision of the injured infraspinatus tendon, which had not been treated with UA-ADRCs. During this operation, a biopsy was taken from the supraspinatus tendon at the position of the injury. A comprehensive, immunohistochemical and microscopic analysis of the biopsy (comprising 13 antibodies) was indicative of newly formed tendon tissue.

Injection of UA-ADRCs can result in regeneration of injured human tendons by formation of new tendon tissue.

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