Hyaluronan-based polymers in the treatment of osteochondral defects

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Abstract

Articular cartilage in adults has limited ability for self-repair. Some methods devised to augment the natural healing response stimulate some regeneration, but the repair is often incomplete and lacks durability. Hyaluronan-based polymers were tested for their ability to enhance the natural healing response. It is hypothesized that hyaluronan-based polymers recreate an embryonic-like milieu where host progenitor cells can regenerate the damaged articular surface and underlying bone. Osteochondral defects were made on the femoral condyles of 4-month-old rabbits and were left empty or filled with hyaluronan-based polymers. The polymers tested were ACP sponge, made of crosslinked hyaluronan, and HYAFF-11 sponge, made of benzylated hyaluronan. The rabbits were killed 4 and 12 weeks after surgery, and the condyles were processed for histology. All 12-week defects were scored with a 29-point scale, and the scores were compared with a Kruskall-Wallis analysis of variance on ranks. Untreated defects filled with bone tissue up to or beyond the tidemark, and the noncalcified surface layer varied from fibrous to hyaline-like tissue. Four weeks after surgery, defects treated with ACP exhibited bone filling to the level of the tidemark and the surface layer was composed of hyaline-like cartilage well integrated with the adjacent cartilage. At 12 weeks, the specimens had bone beyond the tidemark that was covered with a thin layer of hyaline cartilage. Four weeks after surgery, defects treated with HYAFF-11 contained a rim of chondrogenic cells at the interface of the implant and the host tissue. In general, the 12-week defects exhibited good bone fill and the surface was mainly hyaline cartilage. Treated defects received significantly higher scores than untreated defects (p < 0.05), and ACP-treated defects scored significantly higher than HYAFF-11-treated defects (p < 0.05). The introduction of these hyaluronan-based polymers into defects provides an appropriate scaffolding and favorable microen-vironment for the reparative process. Further work is required to fully assess the long-term outcome of defects treated with these polymers.

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