Background context: Glucosamine has gained widespread use among patients, despite inconclusive efficacy data. Inconsistency in the clinical literature may be related to lack of understanding of the effects of glucosamine on the intervertebral disc, and therefore, improper patient selection.
Purpose: The goal of our study was to investigate the effects of glucosamine on intervertebral disc cells in vitro under the physiological conditions of inflammation and mechanical loading.
Study design: Controlled in vitro laboratory setting.
Methods: Intervertebral disc cells isolated from the rabbit annulus fibrosus were exposed to glucosamine sulfate in the presence and absence of interleukin-1β and tensile strain. Outcome measures included gene expression, measurement of total glycosaminoglycans, new proteoglycan synthesis, prostaglandin E2 production, and matrix metalloproteinase activity. The study was funded by NIH/NCCAM, and the authors have no conflicts of interest.
Results: Under conditions of inflammatory stimulation alone, glucosamine demonstrated a dose-dependent effect in decreasing inflammatory and catabolic mediators and increasing anabolic genes. However, under conditions of mechanical stimulation, although inflammatory gene expression was decreased, PGE2 was not. In addition, matrix metalloproteinase-3 gene expression was increased and aggrecan expression decreased, both of which would have a detrimental effect on matrix homeostasis. Consistent with this, measurement of total glycosaminoglycans and new proteoglycan synthesis demonstrated detrimental effects of glucosamine under all conditions tested.
Conclusions: These results may in part help to explain the conflicting reports of efficacy, as there is biological plausibility for a therapeutic effect under conditions of predominate inflammation but not under conditions where mechanical loading is present or in which matrix synthesis is needed.
Keywords: Gene expression; Glucosamine; Intervertebral disc degeneration; Matrix; Mechanical strain; Supplement.
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