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Orthopaedics and rehabilitation faculty to lay groundwork for synthetic tendon and ligament implant development

Torn ligaments and tendons are difficult to heal and often take months or years of rehabilitation. The current method for fixing severe tears is removing intact ligaments and tendons from another part of a patient’s body, or from a cadaver, and using them to repair a knee or ankle. Because this method can be costly and inefficient, Penn State researchers are searching for a better solution.

Spencer Szczesny, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and orthopaedics and rehabilitation, and Dr. Aman Dhawan, associate professor of orthopaedics and rehabilitation at Penn State College of Medicine, are teaming up with international researchers to study normal embryonic tendon and ligament development in chickens and mice in order to develop a process to replicate them synthetically. The project is part of a four-year, $1.25 million grant.

“There is a lot of interest in developing artificial ligament and tendon replacements that integrate biologically into the bone and muscle around them and continue to live on in the body,” Szczesny said. “Our goal is to lay the groundwork by observing chick and mouse development and use that information to genetically engineer a working tendon or ligament implant.”

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