2014 Volume 17 Issue 1 Pages 14-21
Aim: To facilitate establishment of an effective thermotherapy for osteoarthritis (OA), we investigated the effects of the thermal environment on articular chondrocyte metabolism in vitro. Methods: Chondrocytes were isolated from porcine knee joints, and cultured at 32°C, 37°C and 41°C. Cell proliferation and viability were assessed at Days 2, 4 and 8. In addition, TdT-mediated dUTP nick end labeling (TUNEL) assay was performed at Day 3 to determine the proportion of apoptotic chondrocytes. Analysis of genes specific for factors related to the cartilage extracellular matrix (ECM), cartilage destruction, and cartilage protection was performed at Day 2. Furthermore, evaluation of heat stress tolerance, and heat shock protein 70 (HSP70) mRNA expression and protein synthesis was performed at Day 2 and 3, respectively. Results: Cell proliferation was more at 37°C than at 32°C and 41°C. Cell viability and the number of TUNEL-positive cells were not affected until Day 8 and 3, respectively. The expression of the ECM-related genes was up-regulated at higher temperature. The expression of MMP13, a type II collagen destructive enzyme, and that of TIMP1 and TIMP2, which are MMP inhibitors, were up-regulated at higher temperatures. Finally, the chondrocytes cultured at 41°C may acquire heat stress tolerance, in part, due to the up-regulation of HSP70, and may inhibit apoptosis induced by various stresses, which is observed in OA. Conclusions: The thermal environment affects articular chondrocyte metabolism, and a heat stimulus of approximately 41°C could enhance chondrocyte anabolism and induce heat stress tolerance.