Rotator Cuff Tears Repaired Using a Novel Technique That Involves Muscle Regeneration

The shoulder joint is surrounded by a group of four muscles known as the rotator cuff muscles. These muscles help in maintaining the stability of this joint and play an important role during movements at the joint. Rotator cuff tears, therefore, denote a condition whereby there’s a tear in the tendon of one or more of these muscles. This condition most commonly occurs in adults who engage in activities involving repetitive movements of the arm at the shoulder joint. Rotator cuff tears are usually associated with shoulder pain, an inability or difficulty to perform arm movements, and eventually, muscle atrophy due to disuse. Over the years, several techniques have been used to treat this condition. One of these fixes involves surgical reattachment of the torn tendon back to the bone. However, like most other techniques used in the treatment of this condition, the reattachment technique also comes with some downsides. Regardless, a study by scientists at the Connecticut Convergence Institute revealed a novel technique that proved to be more effective in treating rotator cuff tears. This technique involves muscle regeneration to repair the condition. The findings of this study are published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) August 8th issue.

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Rotator Cuff

Rotator Cuff

Muscle regeneration; a new fix for rotator cuff tears

The team led by Dr. Cato T. Laurencin developed a polymer mesh that was infused with nanoplatelets of graphene. This modified mesh was then surgically implanted into the shoulders of rats who had chronic rotator cuff tears with muscle atrophy. They noticed that the implant reversed the muscle atrophy and triggered muscle regrowth. An explanation for the mechanism of this phenomenon came when they attempted growing muscle on the modified mesh in a petri dish in the laboratory. They discovered that the material appeared to facilitate the growth of myotubes (muscle precursors) and prevent the formation of fat in the muscle.

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Clinical significance

While surgical reattachment of the torn rotator cuff tendon to the bone has been used to treat rotator cuff tears, this technique is far from effective. Scientists have shown that although this technique reestablishes the contact between the muscle and the bone via the tendon, it doesn’t account for muscle degeneration, atrophy, and fat accumulation which are after-effects of the rotator cuff tear. This implies that even after surgery, patients find it difficult to return to their usual routine since the weakened muscle can no longer handle the stress it used to effortlessly overcome before the injury. This study which focuses on regenerating the muscle, however, provides a way to fix this situation. It presents a technique to fix not only the tear but also the muscle simultaneously.


The study is a milestone achievement in treating tears in the rotator cuff. It promises a fix that not only helps treat this condition but also allows patients to easily get back to their old lives. The team however reported that the findings of this study represent results obtained from performing the procedure on rats. The next step of their work involves studying this technique in large animals in hopes of using the findings to develop a technology in the future that would provide a better solution to rotator cuff tears than the ones currently in place.

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Muscle degeneration in chronic massive rotator cuff tears of the shoulder: Addressing the real problem using a graphene matrix



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