Cookies on this website

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Accept all cookies' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. If you click 'Reject all non-essential cookies' only necessary cookies providing core functionality such as security, network management, and accessibility will be enabled. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

INTRODUCTION: In inflammatory joint disease, such as osteoarthritis (OA), there is an increased level of proinflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin (IL)-1β. These cytokines stimulate the production of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), which leads to the degradation of the cartilage extracellular matrix and the loss of key structural components such as sulphated glycosaminoglycan (sGAG) and collagen II. The aim of this study was to examine the therapeutic potential of n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) in an in vitro model of cartilage inflammation. METHODS: Two specific n-3 compounds were tested, namely, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), each at 0.1, 1 and 10 μM. Full thickness bovine cartilage explants, 5 mm in diameter, were cultured for 5 days with or without IL-1β and in the presence or absence of each n-3 compound. The media were replaced every 24 hours and assayed for sGAG content using the 1,9-dimethylmethylene blue (DMB) method. Chondrocyte viability was determined at the end of the culture period using fluorescence microscopy to visualise cells labelled with calcein AM and ethidium homodimer. RESULTS: Treatment with IL-1β (10⁻¹) produced a large increase in sGAG release compared to untreated controls, but with no effect on cell viability, which was maintained above 80% for all treatments. In the absence of IL-1β, both n-3 compounds induced a mild catabolic response with increased loss of sGAG, particularly at 10 μM. By contrast, in the presence of IL-1β, both EPA and DHA at 0.1 and 1 μM significantly reduced IL-1β-mediated sGAG loss. The efficacy of the EPA treatment was maintained at approximately 75% throughout the 5-day period. However, at the same concentrations, the efficacy of DHA, although initially greater, reduced to approximately half that of EPA after 5 days. For both EPA and DHA, the highest dose of 10 μM was less effective. CONCLUSIONS: The results support the hypothesis that n-3 compounds are anti-inflammatory through competitive inhibition of the arachidonic acid oxidation pathway. The efficacy of these compounds is likely to be even greater at more physiological levels of IL-1β. Thus we suggest that n-3 PUFAs, particularly EPA, have exciting therapeutic potential for preventing cartilage degradation associated with chronic inflammatory joint disease.

Original publication




Journal article


Arthritis Res Ther

Publication Date





Animals, Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Cartilage Diseases, Cartilage, Articular, Cattle, Cell Survival, Chondrocytes, Docosahexaenoic Acids, Eicosapentaenoic Acid, Interleukin-1beta, Male