Studies have shown the roles of oxidative stress in the pathogenesis of osteoarthritis (OA) and induction of chondrocyte senescence during OA progression. The aim of this study was to examine the potential of a strong free-radical scavenger, water-soluble fullerene (C60), as a protective agent against catabolic stress–induced degeneration of articular cartilage in OA, both in vitro and in vivo.
In the presence or absence of C60 (100 μM), human chondrocytes were incubated with interleukin-1β (10 ng/ml) or H2O2 (100 μM), and chondrocyte activity was analyzed. An animal model of OA was produced in rabbits by resection of the medial meniscus and medial collateral ligament. Rabbits were divided into 5 subgroups: sham operation or treatment with C60 at 0.1 μM, 1 μM, 10 μM, or 40 μM. The left knee joint was injected intraarticularly with water-soluble C60 (2 ml), while, as a control, the right knee joint received 50% polyethylene glycol (2 ml), once weekly for 4 weeks or 8 weeks. Knee bone and cartilage tissue were prepared for histologic analysis. In addition, in the OA rabbit model, the effect of C60 (10 μM) on degeneration of articular cartilage was compared with that of sodium hyaluronate (HA) (5 mg/ml).
C60 (100 μM) inhibited the catabolic stress–induced production of matrix-degrading enzymes (matrix metalloproteinases 1, 3, and 13), down-regulation of matrix production, and apoptosis and premature senescence in human chondrocytes in vitro. In rabbits with OA, treatment with water-soluble C60 significantly reduced articular cartilage degeneration, whereas control knee joints showed progression of cartilage degeneration with time. This inhibitory effect was dose dependent, and was superior to that of HA. Combined treatment with C60 and HA yielded a significant reduction in cartilage degeneration compared with either treatment alone.
The results indicate that C60 fullerene is a potential therapeutic agent for the protection of articular cartilage against progression of OA.