Background: Osteoarthritis (OA) is a common joint disease that causes disabilities in elderly adults. However, few long-lasting pharmacotherapeutic agents with low side effects have been developed to treat OA. We evaluated the therapeutic effects of intra-articular injections of hydrogels containing hyaluronic acid (HA) and doxycycline (DOX) in a rabbit OA model.Results: Thirteen week old New Zealand White rabbits undergone a partial meniscectomy and unilateral fibular ligament transection were administered with either normal saline (NT), HA, DOX or HA-DOX hydrogels on day 0, 3, 6, 9 and 12; animals were also examined the pain assessment in every three days. The joint samples were taken at day 14 post-surgery for further histopathological evaluation. The degree of pain was significantly attenuated after day 7 post-treatment with both HA and HA-DOX hydrogels. In macroscopic appearance, HA-DOX hydrogel group showed a smoother cartilage surface, no or minimal signs of ulceration, smaller osteophytes, and less fissure formation in compare to HA or DOX treatment alone. In the areas with slight OA changes, HA-DOX hydrogel group exhibited normal distribution of chondrocytes, indicating the existence of cartilage regeneration. In addition, HA-DOX hydrogels also ameliorated the progression of OA by protecting the injury of articular cartilage layer and restoring the elastoviscosity.Conclusion: Overall, from both macroscopic and microscopic data of this study indicate the injectable HA-DOX hydrogels presented as a long-lasting pharmacotherapeutic agent to apply for OA therapy.
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