Melbourne Radiology Clinic

Mar 30th
  • *
    Fields marked with an asterisk (*) are required.
  • Search

Autologous Tenocyte Implantation / Therapy

E-mail Print

Autologous Tenocyte Implantation (Ortho-ATI™ ) is an exciting development in the treatment of tendon tears and is a major step in tissue engineering therapeutic options currently available for patients.

Tendinosis, commonly (though incorrectly) referred to as “tendinitis”, occurs due to a decrease in the number of tendon cells (tenocytes). As the local tenocyte population declines, the tendon is unable to withstand normal day to day activities and has limited ability to repair, resulting in premature “wear and tear” (degeneration). Unfortunately, the body’s reaction is unable to reverse this process. ATI is however able to artificially restore the tenocyte population, with the ultimate aim of decreasing pain and improving tendon function.

Autologous Implantation Therapy Autologous Implantation Therapy


ATI is a two stage process (figure 2).

Initially a small specimen of cells is harvested from a normal tendon. The patellar tendon is typically used as it easily accessible and of decent size. An ultrasound examination takes place first in order to confirm that the tendon is normal to guarantee the quality of the specimen. Once this is confirmed, local anaesthetic is injected into the skin, which is followed by two biopsy passes to provide an adequate specimen.

The tissue is then cultured over a period of several weeks in the Orthocell laboratory, to yield five million healthy tendon cells (tenocytes). These cells are delivered to Melbourne Radiology Clinic, with the patient recalled for a final injection into the torn tendon.

Both procedures are simple and quick, taking less than 30 minutes each and are well tolerated. Decreased pain (figure 3) and improved function (figure 4) then occur. As the cells are derived directly from the patient, there is no risk of rejection or infectious disease transmission. Autologous Tenocyte Implantation is available to everyone, from the professional Olympic athlete to patients with recalcitrant tendon pain.

Figure 2 A. The skin of the front of the knee is cleansed, anaesthetised and the biopsy is taken.  From this, a small number of tenocytes are harvested (2B).

This population is amplified in the Orthocell laboratory (2C)Once the required number of cells has been obtained, the cells are dispatched (2D).

2E. Typically a single vial consisting of 5 million tenocytes is used.Under ultrasound guidance, the tenocytes are injected into the patient, in this case, the elbow

Ultrasound guidance is used to safely inject tenocytes into the area of maximal abnormality.

Ultrasound Guided Tendon Biopsy for ATI

Autologous Tendon Implantation Therapy
Pre (A) and post (B) ATI injection of a patient with severe patellar tendinosis ("jumper's knee").

The pre procedural MRI demonstrates marked thickening of the patellar tendon (orange arrows) with a large deep surface tear (blue arrow), surrounding soft tissue and bone marrow oedema.  Following ATI, the tendon is of more uniform thickness and the tear has decreased in size, as has the surrounding soft tissue reaction.

The improved MRI appearances have been accompanied with improved functional outcome, with the patient reporting markedly decreased pain and successful return to sporting activities.

Figure 3: Pain scores following ATI for tennis elbow.
Figure 4: Grip strength following ATI for tennis elbow.

Autologous Implantation Therapy - Sites of Tendon Injuries

Naturally, any tendon can be injected (figure 5), with the most commonly injected areas being the elbow (common extensor tendon), knee (patellar tendon), ankle (Achilles tendon), hip/buttock (gluteal and hamstring tendons) as well as the shoulder (supraspinatus tendon). Future applications may also include injections into torn ligaments, and intradiscal injections for back pain due to disc bulging.

Autologous Implantation Therapy

Images courtesy of Mr Paul Anderson and Professor MH Zheng, Orthocell.

For more information visit the: Orthocell Website


  1. Nho SJ, Delos D, Yadav H, Pensak M, Romeo AA, Warren RF, MacGillivray JD. Biomechanical and biologic augmentation for the treatment of massive rotator cuff tears. Am J Sports Med ;38(3):619-29. Epub 2009 Sep 23. Review, 2010
  2. Chen JM, Willers C, Xu J, Wang A, Zheng MH. Autologous tenocyte therapy using porcine-derived bioscaffolds for massive rotator cuff defect in rabbits. Tissue Eng 13(7):1479-91, 2007
  3. Schulze-Tanzil G, Mobasheri A, Clegg PD, Sendzik J, John T, Shakibaei M. Cultivation of human tenocytes in high-density culture. Histochem Cell Biol 122(3):219-28, 2004
  4. Cao Y, Liu Y, Liu W, Shan Q, Buonocore SD, Cui L. Bridging tendon defects using autologous tenocyte engineered tendon in a hen model. Plast Reconstr Surg 110(5):1280-9, 2002

Download PDF Patient Information Sheet Autologous Tenocyte Implantation (ATI) Patient Information Sheet (Orthocell)

Download PDF FORM Autologous Tenocyte Implantation (ATI) Biopsy Notification Form

Download PDF FORM Autologous Tenocyte Implantation (ATI) Implant Notification Form

Related Articles:

Dr George Koulouris speaks with 3AW Football - Podcast

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

3AW Football - Interview December 21, 2011

Radiologist Dr George Koulouris speaks with 3AW Football about stem cell treatment for tendon injuries in response to the news that Greater Western Sydney GIANTS will send the club’s number one draft pick Jonathon Patton to Europe for treatment on his knee ahead of the 2012 AFL Premiership Season.

GIANTS’ Sports Science Manager John Quinn said Patton would travel to Stockholm in January to visit a world leading specialist to receive further treatment for patellar tendinopathy in his left knee.

Channel 9NEWS reports on ATI - A Breakthrough in the Treatment of Sport's Injuries

Perth Researcher's have made a breakthrough in the treatment of sport's injuries. A trial using cultivated tendon cells to treat conditions like tennis elbow is bringing promising results.

Channel 9NEWS: Tracey Voe Reports on an Injury Breakthrough using Autologous Tenocyte Therapy / Implantation
September 26 /27 2013

View more related articles:

Last Updated ( Sunday, 29 September 2013 12:03 )  
MEDICAL DISCLAIMER The Melbourne Radiology Clinic web site is not intended as a substitute for your own independent health professional's advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider within your country or place of residency with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second medical opinion.