Ligaments and tendons stabilize the musculoskeletal system, controlling mobility. Anterior cruciate ligament in knee joints restrict the dimension of joint movement, while Achilles tendon transmit forces from calf muscle to bone enabling locomotion of ankle joints. Surgical treatments of ACL and Achilles tendon injuries are common in sports medicine. The self-healing capacity of ACL is very limited, and scarring occurs in Achilles tendon healing compromising healing outcome. Use of stem cells to promote healing/repair has been attempted, but results are still suboptimal. Little is known about progenitor cells and molecular signals that could assist healing. We have identified a specific pool of interzone cells as progenitors of ACL and possibly tendons during mouse development, and propose that they are the ideal cell type for ligament and tendon repair.
This project aims to gain insights into the molecular control of joint progenitor cells and explore their potential in and tendon repair. ACL and tendon will be injured and transected, respectively in mice. Joint progenitor cells encapsulated in fibrin glue will be delivered to injured sites. Gel with MSCs and gel-only will serve as controls. Treatment with joint progenitor cells will facilitate healing of ACL and tendon defects, leading to better functional outcomes, compared with MSCs and gel-only controls. The molecular signals identified here could assist the in vitro generation of human cells for clinical use in the future and understand the molecular control of ACL and tendon healing.
Graduated from the University of Melbourne, with a Bachelor of Science (degree with honours), Master of Science and PhD, Prof Chan continued research at his alma mater on heritable skeletal disorders with a focus on extracellular matrix proteins. He joined the University of Hong Kong in 1998, maintaining his research in skeletal biology using mouse as a model to address disease mechanisms in vivo, as well as human genetic studies to define genetic risk factors for common degenerative skeletal conditions such as intervertebral disc degeneration. His research contributed to the molecular understanding of many forms of the human osteochondrodysplasias. In recognition, he was presented with “The Premier’s Award for Health & Medical Research in Victoria, Australia; and more recently, he received the Croucher Senior Fellowship from the Croucher Foundation as recognition of his contribution to skeletal research in Hong Kong.