• tendon stem cells;
  • tendon injury;
  • in vivo identity;
  • stem cell niche


Tendon stem cells are multi-potent adult stem cells with broad differentiation plasticity that render them of great importance in cell-based therapies for the repair of tendons. We called them tendon-derived stem cells (TDSCs) to indicate the tissue origin from which the stem cells were isolated in vitro. Based on the work of other sources of MSCs and specific work on TDSCs, some properties of TDSCs have been characterized / implicated in vitro. Despite these findings, tendon stem cells remained controversial cells. This was because MSCs residing in different organs, although very similar, were not identical cells. There is evidence of differences in stem cell-related properties and functions related to tissue origins. Similar to other stem cells, tendon stem cells were identified and characterized in vitro. Their in vivo identities, niche (both anatomical locations and regulators) and roles in tendons were less understood. This review aims to summarize the current evidence of the possible anatomical locations and niche signals regulating the functions of tendon stem cells in vivo. The possible roles of tendon stem cells in tendon healing and non-healing are presented. Finally, the potential strategies for understanding the in vivo identity of tendon stem cells are discussed.