Hyaluronic Acid Based Hydrogels Attenuate Inflammatory Receptors and Neurotrophins in Interleukin-1β Induced Inflammation Model of Nucleus Pulposus Cells

Biomacromolecules. 2015 Jun 8;16(6):1714-25. doi: 10.1021/acs.biomac.5b00168. Epub 2015 May 5.


Inflammation plays an important role in symptomatic intervertebral disc degeneration and is associated with the production of neurotrophins in sensitizing innervation into the disc. The use of high molecular weight (HMw) hyaluronic acid (HA) hydrogels offers a potential therapeutic biomaterial for nucleus pulposus (NP) regeneration as it exerts an anti-inflammatory effect and provides a microenvironment that is more suitable for NP. Therefore, it was hypothesized that cross-linked HMw HA hydrogels modulate the inflammatory receptor of IL-1R1, MyD88 and neurotrophin expression of nerve growth factor (NGF) and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in an in vitro inflammation model of NP. HA cross-linking was optimized using various concentrations of 4-arm PEG-amine by determination of free carboxyl groups of HA and unreacted free amine groups of PEG-amine. The optimally cross-linked HA hydrogels were characterized for hydrolytic stability, enzymatic degradation and cytotoxicity on NP cells. The therapeutic effect of HA hydrogels was further investigated in IL-1β induced inflammation on NP cell cultures and the mechanism of HA by examining the expression of cell surface receptor of CD44. Hydrogel was optimally cross-linked at 75 mM PEG, stable in phosphate buffered saline, and showed greater than 40% resistance to enzymatic degradation. No cytotoxic effect of NP cells was observed in the presence of hydrogels for 1, 3, and 7 days. IL-1R1 and MyD88 were significantly suppressed. Additionally, NGF and BDNF mRNA were down-regulated after treatment with cross-linked HA hydrogel. Possible protective mechanism of HA is shown by high expression of CD44 receptor of NP cells after HA treatment in which suggest the binding of HA to CD44 receptor and prevent NP cells from further undergoing inflammation. These results indicate that optimally stabilized cross-linked HMw HA hydrogel has a therapeutic effect in response to inflammation-associated pain and becomes an ideal matrices hydrogel for NP regeneration.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cartilage / drug effects*
  • Cartilage / metabolism
  • Cattle
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Hyaluronic Acid / chemistry
  • Hyaluronic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Hydrogels / chemistry
  • Hydrogels / pharmacology*
  • Inflammation / metabolism
  • Interleukin-1 / pharmacology*
  • Intervertebral Disc / drug effects
  • Myeloid Differentiation Factor 88 / metabolism*
  • Nerve Growth Factors / genetics
  • Nerve Growth Factors / metabolism*
  • Polyethylene Glycols / chemistry
  • Receptors, Interleukin-1 / metabolism*


  • Hydrogels
  • Interleukin-1
  • Myeloid Differentiation Factor 88
  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Receptors, Interleukin-1
  • Polyethylene Glycols
  • Hyaluronic Acid