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Research article2013Peer reviewed

Cartilage repair of experimentally induced osteochondral defects in New Zealand White rabbits

Aulin, C; Jensen Waern, Marianne; Ekman, Stina; Hägglund, Maria; Engstrand, T; Hilborn, J; Hedenqvist, Patricia


Articular cartilage has a limited capacity for self-repair in adult humans, and methods used to stimulate regeneration often result in re-growth of fibrous cartilage, which has lower durability. No current treatment option can provide complete repair. The possibility of growth factor delivery into the joint for cartilage regeneration after injury would be an attractive treatment option. A full thickness osteochondral defect of 4 mm in diameter and 2 mm deep was created by mechanical drilling in the medial femoral condyle in 20 female adult New Zealand White rabbits. In an attempt to improve regeneration a hyaluronic hydrogel system, with or without bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2) was delivered intraarticularly. The contralateral joint defect was treated with saline as control. Throughout the study, rabbits were clinically examined and after 12 (n = 6) or 24 (n = 9) weeks, the rabbits were euthanized and the joints evaluated by histology. The defects healed with fibrocartilage like tissue, and the filling of the defects ranged from less than 25% to complete. The healing of the defects varied both inter- and intra-group wise. Treatment with hyaluronan gel with or without BMP-2 had no effect on cartilage regeneration compared with controls. Instead, severe ectopic bone formation was found in seven joints treated with BMP-2. In conclusion, the present study shows that neither treatment with hyaluronic gel alone, nor in combination with BMP-2, improves the healing of an induced cartilage defect in rabbits. It further shows that BMP-2 can induce ectopic bone formation, which severely affects the functionality of the joint.


Articular cartilage; pathology; rabbit model; hyaluronan; bone morphogenetic protein-2

Published in

Laboratory Animals
2013, Volume: 47, number: 1, pages: 58-65