Adipose‐derived stem cells (ASCs) have the potential to enhance tendon repair via paracrine regulation of the inflammatory response to injury. Extracellular vesicles (EVs), which are secreted by ASCs, have shown promise in mediating this process. This study was designed to evaluate the effect of ASC EVs on early tendon healing using a mouse Achilles tendon injury and repair model. EVs were isolated from the conditioned medium of naïve and interferonγ‐primed ASCs and applied to the repair site via a collagen sheet. Tendon healing was assessed in nuclear factor‐κB (NF‐κB)‐luciferase reporter mice up to 7 days after suture repair. As anticipated, repair site NF‐κB activity increased greater than twofold following tendon repair. Treatment with EVs from primed but not naïve ASCs effectively suppressed the response. Accordingly, the pro‐inflammatory genes Il1b and Ifng were both dramatically increased in repaired tendons, while primed, but not naïve ASC EVs attenuated the response. Compared with control repairs, primed ASC EVs further reduced the rate of post‐repair tendon gap formation and rupture and facilitated collagen formation at the injury site. Additional experiments demonstrated that EVs target macrophages and that primed ASC EVs were most effective in blocking macrophage NF‐κB activity. Collectively, the findings of this study demonstrate that primed ASC EVs, similar to ASCs, attenuate the early tendon inflammatory response after injury via modulation of the macrophage inflammatory response. Statement of clinical significance: These findings introduce a new cell‐free therapy, derived from stem cells, for tendon repair with the potential for improved therapeutic efficacy and safety.
Keywords: extracellular vesicle; mesenchymal stem cell; exosome; tendon injury; inflammation