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Papers of the Week

2020 05

Osteoarthritis Cartilage



Macrophages regulate the progression of osteoarthritis.


Zhang H, Cai D, Bai X
Osteoarthritis Cartilage. 2020 05; 28(5):555-561.
PMID: 31982565.


OA is now well accepted as a low-grade inflammatory disease affecting the whole joint. In addition to mechanical loading, inflammation (particularly synovitis), contributes significantly to OA. Synovial macrophages act as immune cells and are of critical importance in the symptomology and structural progression of OA. Activated macrophages are regulated by mTOR, NF-κB, JNK, PI3K/Akt and other signaling pathways, and are polarized into either M1 or M2 subtypes in OA synovial tissues, synovial fluid, and peripheral blood. The activation state and the M1/M2 ratio is highly associated with OA severity. Aside from autocrine interactions, paracrine interactions between macrophages and chondrocytes play a vital role in the initiation and development of OA by secreting inflammatory cytokines, growth factors, matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases (TIMPs), which lead to subsequent cartilage degradation and destruction. Treatments targeting synovial macrophages relieve pain, and protect from synovitis, cartilage damage, and osteophyte formation during OA development. Macrophage reprogramming of transformation from the M1 to M2 subtype, more than a decrease in the quantity of activated macrophages, appears to be an effective treatment option for OA. This review provides a broad understanding of the contributions of polarized macrophages to joint health and disease. Multifunctional agents with immunomodulatory effects on macrophage reprogramming can skew the inflammatory microenvironment towards a pro-chondrogenic atmosphere, and are thus, potential therapeutic options for the treatment of OA and other immune diseases.