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Tissue Eng Part A. 2010 Sep;16(9):2941-51. doi: 10.1089/ten.tea.2009.0710.

Adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells treated with growth differentiation factor-5 express tendon-specific markers.

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  • 1Orthopaedic Research Laboratories, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, University of Virginia Health System, Charlottesville, Virginia 22908, USA.



Adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells (ADMSCs) are a unique population of stem cells with therapeutic potential in the treatment of connective tissue injuries. Growth differentiation factor-5 (GDF)-5 is known to play a role in tendon repair and maintenance. The aim of this study was to investigate the effects of GDF-5 on proliferation and tendonogenic gene expression of rat ADMSCs.


ADMSCs were treated in culture with different concentrations of GDF-5 (0-1000 ng/mL) for 12 days. Biochemical, temporal, and concentration kinetic studies were done. Extracellular matrix (ECM) synthesis, tendonogenic differentiation, and matrix remodeling gene and protein expression were analyzed.


GDF-5 led to increased ADMSC proliferation in a dose- and time-dependent manner. ADMSCs demonstrated enhanced ECM (collagen type I, decorin, and aggrecan) and tendonogenic marker (scleraxis, tenomodulin, and tenascin-C) gene expression with 100 ng/mL of GDF-5 (p < 0.05). ECM and tendon-specific markers showed time-dependent increases at various time points (p < 0.05), although decorin decreased at day 9 (p < 0.05). GDF-5 did alter expression of matrix remodeling genes, with no specific trends observed. Western blot analysis confirmed dose- and time-dependent increases in protein expression of tenomodulin, tenascin-C, Smad-8, and matrix metalloproteinase-13.


In vitro GDF-5 treatment can induce cellular events leading to the tendonogenic differentiation of ADMSCs. The use of combined GDF-5 and ADMSCs tissue-engineered therapies may have a role in the future of tendon repair.

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