Introduction: The aims of this study were, first, to investigate the in vivo effects of treatment with avocado/soybean unsaponifiables on the development of osteoarthritic structural changes in the anterior cruciate ligament dog model and, second, to explore their mode of action.
Methods: Osteoarthritis was induced by anterior cruciate ligament transection of the right knee in crossbred dogs. There were two treatment groups (n = 8 dogs/group), in which the animals received either placebo or avocado/soybean unsaponifiables (10 mg/kg per day), which were given orally for the entire duration of the study (8 weeks). We conducted macroscopic and histomorphological analyses of cartilage and subchondral bone of the femoral condyles and/or tibial plateaus. We also conducted immunohistochemical analyses in cartilage for the following antigens: inducible nitric oxide synthase, matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-1, MMP-13, a disintegrin and metalloproteinase domain with thrombospondin motifs (ADAMTS)4 and ADAMTS5.
Results: The size of macroscopic lesions on the tibial plateaus was decreased (P = 0.04) in dogs treated with the avocado/soybean unsaponifiables. Histologically, in these animals the severity of cartilage lesions on both tibial plateaus and femoral condyles, and the cellular infiltration in synovium were significantly decreased (P = 0.0002 and P = 0.04, respectively). Treatment with avocado/soybean unsaponifiables also reduced loss of subchondral bone volume (P < 0.05) and calcified cartilage thickness (P = 0.01) compared with placebo. Immunohistochemical analysis of cartilage revealed that avocado/soybean unsaponifiables significantly reduced the level of inducible nitric oxide synthase (P < 0.05) and MMP-13 (P = 0.01) in cartilage.
Conclusions: This study demonstrates that treatment with avocado/soybean unsaponifiables can reduce the development of early osteoarthritic cartilage and subchondral bone lesions in the anterior cruciate ligament dog model of osteoarthritis. This effect appears to be mediated through the inhibition of inducible nitric oxide synthase and MMP-13, which are key mediators of the structural changes that take place in osteoarthritis.