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Understanding how bone and tendons connect – implications for improving bioengineered applicationss

22 January 2022

Hold it Together

As a teenager your prized popstar poster didn’t just stick to the wall, it needed sticky tack to bridge between paper and plaster. Creating strong bonds between different materials, such as the soft tendons and hard bone of your shoulder’s rotator cuff, isn’t easy. This connection is hard to repair when injured, so researchers are investigating its structure. A study combined experiments, simulations, and new imaging techniques to examine the enthesis (pictured, artificially coloured to visualise the structure) at the join between tendons and bone and revealed a hidden fibrous material securing the connection. This adhesion balances overall toughness with individual strength, allowing a few fibres to break under strain if necessary to prevent the overall structure losing its grip. Understanding these mechanics could help surgeons ensure the full fibre structure repairs, and gives a new perspective for engineers combining contrasting materials.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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