HA-g-CS Implant and Moderate-intensity Exercise Stimulate Subchondral Bone Remodeling and Promote Repair of Osteochondral Defects in Mice

Int J Med Sci. 2021 Oct 22;18(16):3808-3820. doi: 10.7150/ijms.63401. eCollection 2021.


Background: Substantial evidence shows that crosstalk between cartilage and subchondral bone may play an important role in cartilage repair. Animal models have shown that hydroxyapatite-grafted-chitosan implant (HA-g-CS) and moderate-intensity exercise promote regeneration of osteochondral defects. However, no in vivo studies have demonstrated that these two factors may have a synergistic activity to facilitate subchondral bone remodeling in mice, thus supporting bone-cartilage repair. Questions: This study was to clarify whether HA-g-CS and moderate-intensity exercise might have a synergistic effect on facilitating (1) regeneration of osteochondral defects and (2) subchondral bone remodeling in a mouse model of osteochondral defects. Methods: Mouse models of osteochondral defects were created and divided into four groups. BC Group was subjected to no treatment, HC Group to HA-g-CS implantation into osteochondral defects, ME group to moderate-intensity treadmill running exercise, and HC+ME group to both HA-g-CS implantation and moderate-intensity exercise until sacrifice. Extent of subchondral bone remodeling at the injury site and subsequent cartilage repair were assessed at 4 weeks after surgery. Results: Compared with BC group, HC, ME and HC+ME groups showed more cartilage repair and thicker articular cartilage layers and HC+ME group acquired the best results. The extent of cartilage repair was correlated positively to bone formation activity at the injured site as verified by microCT and correlation analysis. Histology and immunofluorescence staining confirmed that bone remodeling activity was increased in HC and ME groups, and especially in HC+ME group. This bone formation process was accompanied by an increase in osteogenesis and chondrogenesis factors at the injury site which promoted cartilage repair. Conclusions: In a mouse model of osteochondral repair, HA-g-CS implant and moderate-intensity exercise may have a synergistic effect on improving osteochondral repair potentially through promotion of subchondral bone remodeling and generation of osteogenesis and chondrogenesis factors. Clinical Relevance: Combination of HA-g-CS implantation and moderate-intensity exercise may be considered potentially in clinic to promote osteochondral defect repair. Also, cartilage and subchondral bone forms a functional unit in an articular joint and subchondral bone may regulate cartilage repair by secreting growth factors in its remodeling process. However, a deeper insight into the exact role of HA-g-CS implantation and moderate-intensity exercise in promoting osteochondral repair in other animal models should be explored before they can be applied in clinic in the future.