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Arthritis Rheum. 2011 Jul;63(7):1918-27. doi: 10.1002/art.30364.

Osteoarthritic synovial tissue inhibition of proteoglycan production in human osteoarthritic knee cartilage: establishment and characterization of a long-term cartilage-synovium coculture.

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  • 1University Medical Center Utrecht, Utrecht, The Netherlands.



Although both cartilage and synovium are affected in osteoarthritis (OA), no in vitro coculture models of human OA tissue have been described. The aim of this study was to develop an in vitro model that includes both the synovium and cartilage of patients with knee OA.


Explants of human OA cartilage and synovium were cultured alone or in coculture for 21 days. Histologic evaluation and analyses of lactate dehydrogenase release, matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) activity, content, release, and synthesis of glycosaminoglycan (GAG), and cytokine production were used to evaluate synovial tissue functionality and its effect on cartilage metabolism. To assess the possibility of intervention in the model system, the effect of triamcinolone was studied.


Throughout the entire culture period, OA synovial tissue remained viable and produced cytokines. Monocultures of synovial and cartilage explants produced different cytokine subsets, with the subsets found in coculture being most similar to those previously described in OA synovial fluid. MMP activity was detectable only in the synovial explant monoculture and in coculture. Cocultures showed a reduction in final GAG content (P < 0.02), attributable to an inhibition of GAG production (P < 0.001) rather than an increase in GAG release. Addition of triamcinolone inhibited cytokine production and MMP activity in coculture and synovial tissue monoculture and counteracted the inhibition of GAG production induced by coculture. In cartilage monoculture, however, triamcinolone reduced GAG production.


OA synovium affects cartilage metabolism by reducting GAG production. Triamcinolone can relieve this effect of synovial tissue, while being inhibitory when added to cartilage monoculture. These results clearly indicate the importance of tissue coculture as a promising tool for studying OA pathophysiology and for development of possible interventions.

Copyright © 2011 by the American College of Rheumatology.

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