The role of macrophages in osteoarthritis and cartilage repair

Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2020 May;28(5):544-554. doi: 10.1016/j.joca.2019.12.007. Epub 2020 Jan 8.


Osteoarthritis (OA) is a family of degenerative diseases affecting multiple joint tissues. Despite the diverse etiology and pathogenesis of OA, increasing evidence suggests that macrophages can play a significant role in modulating joint inflammation, and thus OA severity, via various secreted mediators. Recent advances in next-generation sequencing technologies coupled with proteomic and epigenetic tools have greatly facilitated research to elucidate the embryonic origin of macrophages in various tissues including joint synovium. Furthermore, scientists have now begun to appreciate that macrophage polarization can span beyond the conventionally recognized binary states (i.e., pro-inflammatory M1-like vs anti-inflammatory M2-like) and may encompass a broad spectrum of phenotypes. Although the presence of these cells has been shown in multiple joint tissues, additional mechanistic studies are required to provide a comprehensive understanding of the precise role of these diverse macrophage populations in OA onset and progression. New approaches that can modulate macrophages into desired functional phenotypes may provide novel therapeutic strategies for preventing OA or enhancing cartilage repair and regeneration.

Keywords: Immunomodulation; Infrapatellar fat pad; Joint synovium; Ligament; Muscle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / immunology
  • Bone Remodeling / immunology
  • Cartilage, Articular / immunology*
  • Cartilage, Articular / physiology
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / immunology*
  • Macrophages / immunology*
  • Osteoarthritis / immunology*
  • Regeneration / immunology*
  • Synovial Membrane / immunology