The interaction between human rotator cuff tendon and subacromial bursal tissue in co-culture

Lisa M. Tamburini, Benjamin J. Levy, Mary Beth McCarthy, Danielle E. Kriscenski, Mark P. Cote, Ryan Applonie, Amir Lebaschi, Paul M. Sethi, Theodore A. Blaine, Augustus D. Mazzocca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Background: The role of subacromial bursa in rotator cuff pathology is unclear. Along with recognized inflammatory potential, current data demonstrate the presence of mesenchymal stem cells and potential regenerative properties of the bursa. The purpose of this study was to (1) approximate an in vitro co-culture model that represents interaction between torn rotator cuff tendon and subacromial bursa, (2) quantify the cellular activity of tendon and bursa and their interactions, (3) use this model to induce a state of inflammation present with rotator cuff pathology. Methods: In part 1, tendon and bursa samples were obtained from 6 patients undergoing rotator cuff repair. Tendon and bursa were cultured alone and together in co-culture wells for 21 days. Markers specific for tenocyte gene expression (tenascin C, decorin, etc) were measured in both tendon and bursa alone and compared to co-culture models. In part 2 of the study, an inflammatory state was induced with interleukin-1β treatment, and markers of inflammation were measured via protein assay at 0 and 21 days in samples from 7 additional patients. Results: There was an increase in tendon and bursa markers in nearly all groups as evidenced by increased gene expression of known tendon and bursa markers. There was a significant increase in gene expression when torn tendon was co-cultured with bursa compared with culturing alone. Additionally, a state of inflammation was induced as evidenced by increased markers of inflammation, inflammatory protein concentration, and inflammatory cells and disruption of histologic morphology. Conclusion: There is a clear interaction between rotator cuff tendon and the milieu produced by the subacromial bursa in this in vitro co-culture system that is significantly different when compared to an isolated culture of tendon and bursa. This system was successfully used to induce a state of inflammation that may represent in vivo inflammation. This in vitro model of rotator cuff pathology can aid investigators in testing effects of agents proposed to improve rotator cuff healing. This can lead to further knowledge regarding effective treatment options.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1494-1502
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Shoulder and Elbow Surgery
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Basic Science Study
  • Cell and Molecular Biology
  • co-culture
  • Rotator cuff
  • subacromial bursa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine


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