Development of Tissue-Engineered Ligaments: Elastin Promotes Regeneration of the Rabbit Medial Collateral Ligament

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Abstract

When ligaments are injured, reconstructive surgery is sometimes required to restore function. Methods of reconstructive surgery include transplantation of an artificial ligament and autotransplantation of a tendon. However, these methods have limitations related to the strength of the bone–ligament insertion and biocompatibility of the transplanted tissue after surgery. Therefore, it is necessary to develop new reconstruction methods and pursue the development of artificial ligaments. Elastin is a major component of elastic fibers and ligaments. However, the role of elastin in ligament regeneration has not been described. Here, we developed a rabbit model of a medial collateral ligament (MCL) rupture and treated animal knees with exogenous elastin [100 μg/(0.5 mL·week)] for 6 or 12 weeks. Elastin treatment increased gene expression and protein content of collagen and elastin (gene expression, 6-fold and 42-fold, respectively; protein content, 1.6-fold and 1.9-fold, respectively), and also increased the elastic modulus of MCL increased with elastin treatment (2-fold) compared with the controls. Our data suggest that elastin is involved in the regeneration of damaged ligaments.

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