The effects of orally administered diacerein on cartilage and subchondral bone in an ovine model of osteoarthritis

S Y Hwa, D Burkhardt, C Little, P Ghosh
Journal of Rheumatology 2001, 28 (4): 825-34

OBJECTIVE: An ovine model of osteoarthritis (OA) induced by bilateral lateral meniscectomy (BLM) was used to evaluate in vivo effects of the slow acting antiarthritic drug diacerein (DIA) on degenerative changes in cartilage and subchondral bone of the operated joints.

METHODS: Twenty of 30 adult age matched Merino wethers were subjected to BLM in the knee joints and the remainder served as non-operated controls (NOC). Half of the BLM group (n = 10) were given DIA (25 mg/kg orally) daily for 3 mo, then 50 mg/kg daily for a further 6 mo. The remainder of the meniscectomized (MEN) group served as OA controls. Five DIA, 5 MEN, and 5 NOC animals were sacrificed at 3 mo and the remainder at 9 mo postsurgery. One knee joint of each animal was used for bone mineral density (BMD) studies. Osteochondral slabs from the lateral femoral condyle and lateral tibial plateau were cut from the contralateral joint and were processed for histological and histomorphometric examination to assess the cartilage and subchondral bone changes.

RESULTS: No significant difference was observed in the modified Mankin scores for cartilage from the DIA and MEN groups at 3 or 9 mo. However, in animals treated with DIA, the thickness of cartilage (p = 0.05) and subchondral bone (p = 0.05) in the lesion (middle) zone of the lateral tibial plateau were decreased relative to the corresponding zone of the MEN group at 3 mo (p = 0.05). At 9 mo subchondral bone thickness in this zone remained the same as NOC but BMD, which included both subchondral and trabecular bone, was significantly increased relative to the NOC group (p = 0.01). In contrast, the subchondral bone thickness of the outer zone of lateral tibial plateau and lateral femoral condyle of both MEN and DIA groups increased after 9 mo, while BMD remained the same as in the NOC.

CONCLUSION: DIA treatment of meniscectomized animals mediated selective responses of cartilage and subchondral bone to the altered mechanical stresses induced across the joints by this procedure. While subchondral bone thickness in tibial lesion sites was reduced, cartilage and bone proliferation at the outer joint margins, a region where osteophyte formation occurred, were enhanced, suggesting that DIA supported the processes of repair and endochondral ossification.

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