In experimental collagenase-induced osteoarthritis (OA) in the mouse, synovial lining macrophages are crucial in mediating joint destruction. It was recently shown that adipose-derived stem cells (ASCs) express immunosuppressive characteristics. This study was undertaken to explore the effect of intraarticular injection of ASCs on synovial lining thickness and its relation to joint pathology in experimental mouse OA.
ASCs were isolated from fat surrounding the inguinal lymph nodes and cultured for 2 weeks. Experimental OA was induced by injection of collagenase into the knee joints of C57BL/6 mice. OA phenotypes were measured within 8 weeks after induction. Histologic analysis was performed, and synovial thickening, enthesophyte formation, and cartilage destruction were measured in the knee joint.
ASCs were injected into the knee joints of mice 7 days after the induction of collagenase-induced OA. On day 1, green fluorescent protein–labeled ASCs were attached to the lining layer in close contact with macrophages. Thickening of the synovial lining, formation of enthesophytes associated with medial collateral ligaments, and formation of enthesophytes associated with cruciate ligaments were significantly inhibited on day 42 after ASC treatment, by 31%, 89%, and 44%, respectively. Destruction of cartilage was inhibited on day 14 (65%) and day 42 (35%). In contrast to early treatment, injection of ASCs on day 14 after OA induction showed no significant effect on synovial activation or joint pathology on day 42.
These findings indicate that a single injection of ASCs into the knee joints of mice with early-stage collagenase-induced OA inhibits synovial thickening, formation of enthesophytes associated with ligaments, and cartilage destruction.