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Chronic tendinopathy represents a growing healthcare burden in the ageing global population. Curative therapies remain elusive as the mechanisms that underlie chronic inflammation in tendon disease remain unclear. Identifying and isolating key pathogenic and reparative cells is essential in developing precision therapies and implantable materials for improved tendon healing. Multiple discrete human tendon cell populations have been previously described ex vivo. To determine if these populations persist in vitro, healthy human hamstring tenocytes were cultured for 8 d on either tissue culture plastic or aligned electrospun fibres of absorbable polydioxanone. Novel single-cell surface proteomics combined with unbiased single-cell transcriptomics (CITE-Seq) was used to identify discrete tenocyte populations. 6 cell populations were found, 4 of which shared key gene expression determinants with ex vivo human cell clusters: PTX3_PAPPA, POSTN_SCX, DCN_LUM and ITGA7_NES. Surface proteomics found that PTX3_PAPPA cells were CD10+CD26+CD54+. ITGA7_NES cells were CD146+ and POSTN_SCX cells were CD90+CD95+CD10+. Culture on the aligned electrospun fibres favoured 3 cell subtypes (DCN_LUM, POSTN_SCX and PTX3_ PAPPA), promoting high expression of tendon-matrix-associated genes and upregulating gene sets enriched for TNF-a and IL-6/STAT3 signalling. Discrete human tendon cell subpopulations persisted in in vitro culture and could be recognised by specific gene and surface-protein signatures. Aligned polydioxanone fibres promoted the survival of 3 clusters, including pro-inflammatory PTX3-expressing CD10+CD26+CD54+ cells found in chronic tendon disease. These results improved the understanding of preferred culture conditions for different tenocyte subpopulations and informed the development of in vitro models of tendon disease.

Original publication




Journal article


Eur Cell Mater

Publication Date





1 - 20


Cells, Cultured, Dipeptidyl Peptidase 4, Humans, Polydioxanone, Tendons, Tenocytes, Wound Healing