OBJECTIVE To evaluate the biochemical and biomechanical properties of native and decellularized superficial digital flexor tendons (SDFTs) and deep digital flexor tendons (DDFTs) harvested from the pelvic limbs of orthopedically normal dogs.
SAMPLE 22 commercially supplied tendon specimens (10 SDFT and 12 DDFT) harvested from the pelvic limbs of 13 canine cadavers.
PROCEDURES DNA, glycosaminoglycan, collagen, and protein content were measured to biochemically compare native and decellularized SDFT and DDFT specimens. Mechanical testing was performed on 4 groups consisting of native tendons (5 SDFTs and 6 DDFTs) and decellularized tendons (5 SDFTs and 6 DDFTs). All tendons were preconditioned, and tension was applied to failure at 0.5 mm/s. Failure mode was video recorded for each tendon. Load-deformation and stress-strain curves were generated; calculations were performed to determine the Young modulus and stiffness. Biochemical and biomechanical data were statistically compared by use of the Wilcoxon rank sum test.
RESULTS Decellularized SDFT and DDFT specimens had significantly less DNA content than did native tendons. No significant differences were identified between native and decellularized specimens with respect to glycosaminoglycan, collagen, or protein content. Biomechanical comparison yielded no significant intra- or intergroup differences. All DDFT constructs failed at the tendon-clamp interface, whereas nearly half (4/10) of the SDFT constructs failed at midsubstance.
CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE Decellularized commercial canine SDFT and DDFT specimens had similar biomechanical properties, compared with each other and with native tendons. The decellularization process significantly decreased DNA content while minimizing loss of extracellular matrix components. Decellularized canine flexor tendons may provide suitable, biocompatible graft scaffolds for bioengineering applications such as tendon or ligament repair.