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Arthritis Rheumatol. 2014 May;66(5):1247-55. doi: 10.1002/art.38357.

Targeted delivery to cartilage is critical for in vivo efficacy of insulin-like growth factor 1 in a rat model of osteoarthritis.

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Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, Massachusetts.



Acute articular injuries lead to an increased risk of progressive joint damage and osteoarthritis (OA), and no therapies are currently available to repair or protect the injured joint tissue. Intraarticular delivery of therapeutic proteins has been limited by their rapid clearance from the joint space and lack of retention within cartilage. The aim of this study was to test whether targeted delivery to cartilage by fusion with a heparin-binding domain would be sufficient to prolong the in vivo function of the insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1).


We produced a humanized and optimized recombinant HB-IGF-1 fusion protein. By injecting HB-IGF-1, IGF-1, or saline alone into the knee joints of adult Lewis rats, we tested whether fusion with a heparin-binding domain 1) altered the kinetics of retention in joint tissues, 2) prolonged functional stimulation as measured by radiolabel incorporation, and 3) enhanced efficacy in a rat model of surgically induced OA, using weekly injections.


Fusion of heparin-binding domain with IGF-1 prolonged retention in articular and meniscal cartilage from <1 day to 8 days after injection. Unmodified IGF-1 had no functional effect 2 days after injection, whereas HB-IGF-1 stimulated meniscal cartilage at least 4 days after injection. HB-IGF-1, but not IGF-1, significantly slowed cartilage damage in a rat model of OA.


Heparin-binding domain fusions can transform rapidly cleared proteins into potential intraarticular therapies by targeting them to cartilage.

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