Tendon injuries are common in either the workplace or sport activities, with some 3 to 5 million tendon and ligament injuries occurring annually worldwide. Management of tendon injury currently follows two routes: Conservative (rehabilitation and pain relief), or surgical. Irrespective of which of these primary treatment routes are followed, even if healing does occur, it may not result in a full gain of function. The inability of the tendon to self-repair and the relative inefficiency of current treatment regimens suggest that identifying alternative strategies is a priority. One such alternative is the use of stem cells to repair damage, either through direct application or in conjunction with scaffolding. We describe the current state of the art in terms of: (i) Molecular markers of tendon development, (ii) stem cell applicability to human tendon repair, (iii) scaffolding for in vitro tendon generation, and (iv) chemical/molecular approaches to both induce stem cell differentiation into tenocytes and maintain their proliferation in vitro.
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