Illustration of nanoparticle-based targeted drug delivery for tendon healingIntroduction

Tendon injuries, common yet notoriously difficult to treat, have long posed a challenge for effective therapeutic intervention. Traditional surgical methods often result in poor outcomes, including fibrosis and re-rupture. Despite the high prevalence of these injuries, there are currently no pharmacological therapies specifically designed to enhance tendon healing. Addressing this critical need, researchers at the University of Rochester have made significant strides with an innovative nanoparticle-based drug delivery system. This groundbreaking approach promises to revolutionize tendon healing by ensuring targeted delivery of therapeutic agents directly to the injured site, significantly improving functional recovery.

Innovative Tendon-Targeting Approach

The study, published in Science Advances link, unveils a novel nanoparticle-based system designed to enhance tendon healing by targeting the healing site with precision. Led by Dr. Alayna E. Loiselle and Dr. Danielle S. W. Benoit, the research team leveraged their existing spatial transcriptomics dataset to identify a new target for drug delivery. They discovered an area of the healing tendon enriched for Acp5 expression, the gene encoding tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP). This unexpected finding of robust TRAP activity provided the foundation for developing their innovative TRAP binding peptide (TBP) functionalized nanoparticle (NP) system.

Mechanism and Efficacy

The TBP-functionalized nanoparticles were engineered to have a high affinity for TRAP, allowing them to accumulate preferentially in areas of high TRAP activity within the healing tendon. To demonstrate the translational potential of this drug delivery system, the team selected niclosamide, an S100a4 inhibitor known to play a role in tendon healing. While systemic delivery of free niclosamide did not significantly impact the healing process, the TBP-NP delivery of niclosamide resulted in enhanced functional and mechanical recovery.

Key Findings

High Targeting Efficiency

The TBP-functionalized NPs exhibited substantial accumulation and sustained retention in the healing tendon, significantly outperforming non-functionalized NPs. This high-efficiency targeting is crucial for maximizing the therapeutic impact on tendon healing.

Improved Healing Outcomes

Mice treated with TBP-NPNEN (TBP-functionalized NPs loaded with niclosamide) showed notable improvements in tendon flexibility and mechanical properties. At 14 days post-injury, there was a 69% increase in metatarsophalangeal flexion angle and a 42% decrease in gliding resistance compared to saline controls. These improvements were maintained at 28 days post-injury with significant enhancements in maximum load at failure and stiffness observed in the treated tendons.

Biocompatibility and Safety

The NP system demonstrated excellent biocompatibility with no observed cytotoxic effects or off-target accumulation in other organs. Comprehensive assays and histological examinations confirmed the safety of the nanoparticles.

Predominant Cell Population Targeting

Macrophages were identified as the primary cell population internalizing the TBP-NPs within the tendon. This is significant given the essential role of macrophages in the tendon healing process. The targeted delivery of niclosamide via the TBP-NPs resulted in a significant reduction in S100a4 expression in macrophages, correlating with improved healing outcomes.


This research represents a significant advancement in the field of tendon injury treatment. The development of a tendon-targeting drug delivery system addresses a major unmet need, opening new possibilities for improving tendon healing outcomes. The ability to deliver therapeutics specifically to the tendon could lead to more effective treatments, reducing fibrosis and enhancing functional recovery.

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