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The development and morphogenesis of the tendon-to-bone insertion - what development can teach us about healing -.

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  • 1Washington University, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, St Louis, MO 63110, USA.


The attachment of dissimilar materials is a major challenge because of the high levels of stress that develop at such interfaces. An effective solution to this problem develops at the attachment of tendon (a compliant "soft tissue") to bone (a stiff "hard tissue"). This tissue, the "enthesis", transitions from tendon to bone through gradations in structure, composition, and mechanical properties. These gradations are not regenerated during tendon-to-bone healing, leading to a high incidence of failure after surgical repair. Understanding the development of the enthesis may allow scientists to develop treatments that regenerate the natural tendon-to-bone insertion. Recent work has demonstrated that both biologic and mechanical factors drive the development and morphogenesis of the enthesis. A cascade of biologic signals similar to those seen in the growth plate promotes mineralization of cartilage on the bony end of the enthesis and the formation of fibrocartilage on the tendon end of the enthesis. Mechanical loading is also necessary for the development of the enthesis. Removal of muscle load impairs the formation of bone, fibrocartilage, and tendon at the developing enthesis. This paper reviews recent work on the development of the enthesis, with an emphasis on the roles of biologic and mechanical factors.

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