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Am J Sports Med. 2011 Jan;39(1):164-72. doi: 10.1177/0363546510378088. Epub 2010 Sep 20.

Effects of supplemental intra-articular lubricin and hyaluronic acid on the progression of posttraumatic arthritis in the anterior cruciate ligament-deficient rat knee.

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Department of Orthopaedics, Brown Medical School/Rhode Island Hospital, Providence, USA.



Lubricin and hyaluronic acid lubricate articular cartilage and prevent wear. Because lubricin loss occurs after anterior cruciate ligament injury, intra-articular lubricin injections may reduce cartilage damage in the anterior cruciate ligament-deficient knee.


This study was conducted to determine if lubricin and/or hyaluronic acid supplementation will reduce cartilage damage in the anterior cruciate ligament-deficient knee.


Controlled laboratory study.


Thirty-six male rats, 3 months old, underwent unilateral anterior cruciate ligament transection. They were randomized to 4 treatments: (1) saline (phosphate-buffered saline [PBS]), (2) hyaluronic acid (HA), (3) purified human lubricin (LUB), and (4) LUB and HA (LUB+HA). Intra-articular injections were given twice weekly for 4 weeks starting 1 week after surgery. Knees were harvested 1 week after the final injection. Radiographs of each limb and synovial fluid lavages were obtained at harvest. Histologic analysis was performed to assess cartilage damage using safranin O/fast green staining. Radiographs were scored for the severity of joint degeneration using the modified Kellgren-Lawrence scale. Synovial fluid levels of sulfated glycosaminoglycan, collagen II breakdown, interleukin-1β (IL-1β), tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α), and lubricin were measured using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA).


Treatment with LUB or LUB+HA significantly decreased radiographic and histologic scores of cartilage damage (P = .039 and P = .015, respectively) when compared with the PBS and HA conditions. There was no evidence of an effect of HA nor was the LUB effect HA-dependent, suggesting that the addition of HA did not further reduce damage. The synovial fluid of knees treated with LUB had significantly more lubricin in the synovial fluid at euthanasia, although there were no differences in the other cartilage metabolism biomarkers.


Supplemental intra-articular LUB reduced cartilage damage in the anterior cruciate ligament-transected rat knee 6 weeks after injury, while treatment with HA did not.


Although longer term studies are needed, intra-articular supplementation (tribosupplementation) with lubricin after anterior cruciate ligament injury may protect the articular cartilage in the anterior cruciate ligament-injured knee.

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