Introduction: The aim of this prospective, randomized, controlled, double-blind study was to evaluate the effects of tiludronate (TLN), a bisphosphonate, on structural, biochemical and molecular changes and function in an experimental dog model of osteoarthritis (OA).
Methods: Baseline values were established the week preceding surgical transection of the right cranial/anterior cruciate ligament, with eight dogs serving as OA placebo controls and eight others receiving four TLN injections (2 mg/kg subcutaneously) at two-week intervals starting the day of surgery for eight weeks. At baseline, Week 4 and Week 8, the functional outcome was evaluated using kinetic gait analysis, telemetered locomotor actimetry and video-automated behaviour capture. Pain impairment was assessed using a composite numerical rating scale (NRS), a visual analog scale, and electrodermal activity (EDA). At necropsy (Week 8), macroscopic and histomorphological analyses of synovium, cartilage and subchondral bone of the femoral condyles and tibial plateaus were assessed. Immunohistochemistry of cartilage (matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-1, MMP-13, and a disintegrin and metalloproteinase domain with thrombospondin motifs (ADAMTS5)) and subchondral bone (cathepsin K) was performed. Synovial fluid was analyzed for inflammatory (PGE(2) and nitrite/nitrate levels) biomarkers. Statistical analyses (mixed and generalized linear models) were performed with an α-threshold of 0.05.
Results: A better functional outcome was observed in TLN dogs than OA placebo controls. Hence, TLN dogs had lower gait disability (P = 0.04 at Week 8) and NRS score (P = 0.03, group effect), and demonstrated behaviours of painless condition with the video-capture (P < 0.04). Dogs treated with TLN demonstrated a trend toward improved actimetry and less pain according to EDA. Macroscopically, both groups had similar level of morphometric lesions, TLN-treated dogs having less joint effusion (P = 0.01), reduced synovial fluid levels of PGE(2) (P = 0.02), nitrites/nitrates (P = 0.01), lower synovitis score (P < 0.01) and a greater subchondral bone surface (P < 0.01). Immunohistochemical staining revealed lower levels in TLN-treated dogs of MMP-13 (P = 0.02), ADAMTS5 (P = 0.02) in cartilage and cathepsin K (P = 0.02) in subchondral bone.
Conclusion: Tiludronate treatment demonstrated a positive effect on gait disability and joint symptoms. This is likely related to the positive influence of the treatment at improving some OA structural changes and reducing the synthesis of catabolic and inflammatory mediators.