Tendon bone healing of the rotator cuff is often associated with non-healing or recurrent defects, which seems to be influenced by the patient's age and sex. The present study aims to examine cellular biological characteristics of tenocyte-like cells that may contribute to this impaired rotator cuff healing. Moreover, a therapeutic approach using growth factors could possibly stimulate tendon bone healing. Therefore, our second aim was to identify patient groups who would particularly benefit from growth factor stimulation. Tenocyte-like cells isolated from supraspinatus tendons of female donors younger and older than 65 years of age were characterized with respect to different cellular biological parameters, such as cell density, cell count, marker expression, collagen-I protein synthesis, and stem cell potential. Furthermore, cells of the donor groups were stimulated with BMP-2 and BMP-7 (200 and 1000 ng/ml) in 3D-culture and analyzed for cell count, marker expression and collagen-I protein synthesis. Female donors older than 65 years of age showed significantly decreased cell count and collagen-I protein synthesis compared to cells from donors younger than 65 years. Cellular biological parameters including cell count, collagen-I and -III expression, and collagen-I protein synthesis of cells from both donor groups were stimulated with BMP-2 and BMP-7. The cells from donors older than 65 years revealed a decreased stimulation potential for cell count compared to the younger group. Cells from female donors older than 65 years of age showed inferior cellular biological characteristics. This may be one reason for a weaker healing potential observed in older female patients and should be taken into consideration for tendon bone healing of the rotator cuff.
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