Objective: Long-term assessment of the effect of hyaluronan (HA) on the articular cartilage and synovium in an animal knee joint during the development of osteoarthritis (OA).
Design: Sixty mature New Zealand white rabbits underwent unilateral anterior cruciate ligament transection (ACLT) and were divided into two groups. Group 1 (SA) received intra-articular injections of 0.3 ml hyaluronan (HA) (i.e., ARTZ, MW: 8 x 10(5)) beginning 4 weeks after ACLT, once a week for 5 weeks. Group 2 (SV) received injections of the vehicle (phosphate buffered saline) in the same fashion as with the SA group. The contralateral nonoperated knee served as control. All animals were killed 21 weeks after surgery and their knee joints evaluated by gross morphologic, histologic, histomorphometric and biochemical analyses.
Results: Gross morphological inspection indicated that the femoral condyles from the knees injected with vehicle suffered more severe cartilage damage than cartilage from the knees injected with HA. Furthermore, two out of three histomorphometric parameters measured in the HA-treated cartilage (i.e., cartilage thickness and cartilage area which were not statistically different than control) provided evidence showing a protective effect of HA on the femoral condyles following ACLT. Biochemical analysis showed articular cartilage remaining on the femoral condyles following ACLT to have similar characteristics to contralateral controls. However, DNA concentration in the synovium from the ACLT knees of the vehicle-treated animals was greater than contralateral control, while this parameter was not statistically different than contralateral control in the HA treated animals.
Conclusions: These results demonstrate a protective effect of HA on preservation of the articulating surface of the femoral condyle following ACLT up to 21 weeks post-surgery.