New material prevents retear of rotator cuff injuries

By The Science Advisory Board staff writers

August 15, 2022 -- A University of Connecticut team has created a graphene/polymer matrix that can be embedded into the shoulder muscle and prevent retear injuries of the rotator cuff.

Most rotator cuff repairs focus on the tendon and how to reattach it to the bone most effectively. However, the muscle degenerates and accumulates fat. With a tear, the muscle shrinks and the body grows fat in that area instead. When the tendon and muscle are surgically reattached to the shoulder bone, the weakened muscle can't handle normal stresses and the area can be reinjured.

To solve that problem, Dr. Cato Laurencin and graduate student Nikoo Shemshaki worked with University of Connecticut Convergence Institute researchers to develop a polymer mesh infused with nanoplatelets of graphene. In an animal model, the atrophied muscle grew back when using the material. And when the team attempted to grow the muscle in a petri dish, they found the material encouraged the growth of myotubes and discouraged fat formation.

Next, the research team will study the matrix in a large animal and if all goes well, eventually progress to humans.

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