School of Biomedical Sciences
The Chinese University of Hong Kong 香港中文大學

A research team led by Prof. Elmer Ker, Assistant Professor at the School of Biomedical Sciences (SBS) and Institute for Tissue Engineering and Regenerative Medicine (ITERM), CUHK has developed a 3D-printable bioactive material for the repair of severe tears of the shoulder tendons, also known as the rotator cuff. This newly developed material provides adequate mechanical support to sustain normal shoulder movement and with the inclusion of bioactive molecules such as growth factors, is able to enhance tissue regeneration. The fact that it can be 3D-printed not only facilitates economical on-demand fabrication but can also allow the material to be personalised for treating irregular, patient-specific tendon tear shapes. Thus, there is a high potential to apply this invention as a new treatment option in repairing rotator cuff injuries including large-to-massive tears. Details of the research have been published in the international journal Bioactive Materials, with Dr Zhang Xu, a Research Associate (honorary) in Professor Ker’s laboratory, as the first author.

Professor Ker stated, “Our work has achieved the goal of developing an easily manufactured, mechanically robust, pro-regenerative tendon biomaterial that addresses mechanical and biological deficits in rotator cuff injuries while avoiding a complex and laborious production process. We will continue to prove the significant potential of this newly developed material for the repair of large-to-massive rotator cuff injuries, as well as other soft tissue injuries, in a clinical setting.”

In addition, the research team has applied innovative design approaches to optimise bone-tendon repair (published in Acta Biomaterialia in March 2024, with Mr Wang Chen-yang, a PhD student in Professor Ker’s laboratory, as the first author) and developed a pro-regenerative cocktail to promote tendon healing (published in Biomaterials Advances in March 2023, with Dr Li Ke, a post-doctoral fellow (honorary) in Professor Ker’s laboratory, as the first author). Together, the work from Professor Ker’s laboratory addresses the grand challenge of clinically repairing rotator cuff injuries. Patents for several of these technologies have been filed in the United States, Europe and Mainland China.

The related coverage by the Communications and Public Relations Office and the Faculty of Medicine, CUHK can be viewed HERE and HERE respectively.

Prof. Elmer Ker (2nd from left), Assistant Professor in SBS and ITERM and his research team members including Mr Wang Chen-yang(1st from left), PhD student; Dr Zhang Xu (2nd from right), Research Associate (honorary); and Dr Li Ke (first from right), post-doctoral fellow (honorary).