Viscosupplementation May Preserve Tibial Cartilage and Collagen in Osteoarthritis: Findings From a Preclinical Model of Osteoarthritis

Purpose: Intraarticular (IA) hyaluronic acid (HA) injection is used to reduce pain and improve mobility in knee osteoarthritis (OA). Little is known about histopathological changes underlying HA efficacy. This study investigated dose-related effects of 1% sodium hyaluronate (BioHA) on knee joint histopathology and pain responses in a medial meniscal tear (MMT) rat model of OA.

Methods: Following MMT surgery, rats were randomized into treatment groups: single IA injection of vehicle, BioHA, or an avian-derived hyaluronic acid (hylan G-F 20) on Day 7; or 3 weekly injections of vehicle or BioHA on Days 7, 14, and 21. On Day 35, joints were evaluated by microscopic histopathology for cartilage degeneration, collagen degeneration, synovitis, and cytokine expression (tumor necrosis factor α, transforming growth factor β).

Results: Joint pathology for control animals was consistent with that expected for the MMT model. Rats treated with 3 injections of IA-BioHA had significantly reduced collagen degeneration (21%) relative to control animals. No significant change in collagen degeneration was observed for rats given a single injection of hylan G-F 20 or IA-BioHA compared to control animals. HA treatment did not affect cytokine expression.

Conclusions: IA-BioHA viscosupplementation in a rat MMT model of OA showed preservation of joint cartilage and collagen. This effect was most pronounced on tibial surfaces having less severe injury, suggesting that treatment should be initiated early in the disease process. A comparison of responses to IA-BioHA or hylan G-F 20 in the MMT rat OA model suggest IA-BioHA may be more effective in preserving joint connective tissue.

Keywords: Collagen; Hyaluronic acid; Osteoarthritis; Viscosupplementation.