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Journal of Orthopaedic Research


The intra-articular injection of high molecular weight hyaluronic acid (HA) has been reported to be an effective treatment for pain of osteoarthritis of the knee. However, the mechanism by which HA exerts its effect is unknown. To explore HA's influence on the growth of U937 human macrophages, cells were incubated for 168 h with three concentrations, 1, 0.1 and 0.01 mg/mL, of Hyalgan®, a high molecular weight HA preparation. At 24-h increments, the cells were examined for proliferation, cell cycle distribution as well as the number of apoptotic and dead cells. Exposing macrophages to 1 mg/mL Hyalgan® significantly reduced the rate of cellular proliferation and altered the cell cycle distribution to yield decreased proportions of G0/G1 cells but increased S and G2/M cells. Concomitantly, a 10-fold increase in apoptotic cells and a 12-fold increase in dead cells were observed. The population doubling time (PDT) for cells treated with 1.0 mg/mL Hyalgan® increased from 23.6 to 52.9 h. By contrast, the two lower Hyalgan® concentrations significantly promoted macrophage proliferation in a dose-dependent manner. They also increased the proportion of G2/M cells, but had no effect on the number of apoptotic or dead cells. The PDTs of 21.5 and 22.2 h were less than the control time of 23.6 h. These results demonstrate that Hyalgan® concentrations have a differential effect on macrophage growth dynamics and suggest an anti-inflammatory effect at high HA concentrations.

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