Researchers' pitch: An injectable, sustained-release rotator cuff treatment

At the Georgia Institute of Technology and Emory University, researchers are looking for a new way to treat rotator cuff injuries, a common baseball shoulder ailment that has ended many a star pitcher's career.

The rotator cuff tear, which requires surgery, may be treated with a single enzyme injection using a new delivery material, according to Georgia Tech and Emory scientists. The delivery of enzymes directly to the injured tissue would make this "the first time that an injectable therapy specifically designed to interact with tissue at an early disease state has been attempted for this particular tendon injury," lead researcher Johnna Temenoff said in a statement.

"The interesting thing about this disease is that we don't know exactly what causes it," said Temenoff, who has also worked on tendon injuries for quarterbacks in football. "We're studying enzymes that are known to chew up the collagen, and we're looking at then delivering inhibitors to those enzymes in a local injection in the tendon to try to stop the degradation."

With a $1 million grant from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, the research team will work for 5 years studying the enzymes that break down a damaged tendon. The injectable compound would act to block these enzymes to either prevent further damage or heal the tendon.

And to deliver the compound over time, the research team is looking for an extended-release delivery strategy that would allow the most efficiency with the fewest number of shots. According to a Georgia Tech report, one possibility is to control the inhibitors using heparin, a blood thinner.

"Normally people focus on treating tendon injuries after the tear has occurred, but we're focusing on a much earlier stage in the disease," Temenoff said. 

- here's the Georgia Tech report