Nitrous acid pretreatment of tendon xenografts cross-linked with glutaraldehyde and sterilized with gamma irradiation

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Journal Article
Biomaterials, 1999, 20 (11), pp. 1003 - 1015
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Collagenous xenografts made from kangaroo tail tendon cross-linked with glutaraldehyde have a potential application in the reconstruction of massive digital tendon deficits. However, a limitation to the clinical use of these xenografts has been the optimization of collagen cross-linking, and subsequent bio-incorporation and retention of mechanical properties following implantation. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of nitrous acid on modulating the biologic and mechanical properties of tendon xenografts cross-linked with glutaraldehyde. Tendon xenografts were pretreated with 0.1 or 0.01 M nitrous acid solution, prior to cross-linking in 2% glutaraldehyde and sterilization by gamma irradiation. Xenografts were implanted intramuscularly in rabbits to examine biocompatability, and also used to repair ovine digital extensor tendon deficits to evaluate functional incorporation. Histologically, intramuscularly implanted nitrous acid pretreated xenografts in rabbits had a greater degree of diffuse cellular infiltration into interstitial splits in the graft than controls after 12 weeks. Xenografts implanted in an ovine extensor tendon deficit were evaluated after 26 and 52 weeks. Rate of failure of tenorrhaphies between host tendon and xenografts overall (15/21) was significantly greater (P < 0.05) than for autografts (1/21), suggesting that the holding power of sutures in xenografts was inferior to that obtained in autografts. Tensile failure stress of midsections of both nitrous acid pretreated and control xenografts was about 100 MPa prior to implantation (time zero). After 26 and 52 weeks, failure stress of both types of xenografts was significantly less than at time zero (P < 0.05). At 52 weeks, failure stress of nitrous acid pretreated xenografts (47.4 ± 3.1 MPa) was significantly less than control xenografts (63.7 ± 5.4 MPa); (P < 0.05). However, nitrous acid pretreated xenografts were similar to control xenografts in failure load (357 ± 29 and 354 ± 26 N, respectively), but they tended to have larger cross-sectional areas (7.6 ± 0.5 versus 5.7 ± 0.6 mm2, respectively) which were responsible for the lower calculated value for failure stress. Histologically, autografts maintained their normal tissue architecture and evoked a more limited cellular response in surrounding tissues than xenografts (P < 0.05). Both types of xenograft were surrounded by a thicker cuff of cellular response than autografts. However, compared to control xenografts, nitrous acid pretreated xenografts had more extensive fragmentation and splitting of collagen bundles, and more diffuse cellular and vascular infiltration into these interstitial splits, and these alterations were apparently contributing to the greater 'swelling' of these xenografts. It was concluded that pretreatment of tendon xenografts with nitrous acid modulated their biologic and material properties. Further studies are needed to elucidate the mechanism of these effects, and to determine if the protocol for tendon xenograft preparation could be optimized for improved clinical performance.
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