Using a validated explant model of in vitro cartilage damage, the effects of aqueous extracts of Withania somnifera (Ashwagandha) root and glucosamine sulphate (GlcS) were tested on the levels of nitric oxide (NO) and glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) secreted by knee cartilage from chronic osteoarthritis (OA) patients. W. somnifera extracts significantly decreased NO release by explants from one subset of patients (antiinflammatory response) and significantly increased levels of NO and GAGs released by explants from the second subset ('non-responders'). This is the first study showing direct, statistically significant, antiinflammatory effects of W. somnifera on human OA cartilage. It also confirmed that glucosamine sulphate exhibited statistically significant, antiinflammatory and chondroprotective activities in human OA cartilage. However, these beneficial effects of GlcS were observed in cartilage explants from 50% of patients tested ('responders'). In contrast, glucosamine significantly increased secretion of NO but not GAGs in explants from the second subset of OA patients ('non-responders'). Cartilage explants from the 11 OA patients gave differential responses to both drugs. Patient samples which responded to the antiinflammatory effects of W. somnifera did not always give a similar response to glucosamine, and vice versa. Thus, this in vitro model of human cartilage damage provides qualitative and statistically significant, quantitative pre-clinical data on antiinflammatory and chondroprotective activities of antiarthritic drugs.
(c) 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.