De-gang Yu, Bo Yu, Yuan-qing Mao, Xin Zhao, Xiao-qing Wang, Hui-feng Ding, Lei Cao, Guang-wang Liu, Shao-bo Nie, Shen Liu and Zhen-an Zhu
To investigate whether the stage of osteoarthritis (OA) progression influenced the efficacy of the third-generation bisphosphonate zoledronic acid in a rat medial meniscal tear model. Medial meniscal tear (MMT) was surgically induced in adult male Sprague Dawley rats. Zoledronic acid (ZOL, 100 μg/kg, sc, twice a week) was administered starting immediately, early (from 4 weeks) or late (from 8 weeks) after OA induction. The degeneration of articular cartilage was evaluated with toluidine blue O staining. Subchondral bone remodeling was evaluated with X-ray micro-CT scanning. Joint pain was measured with respect to weight-bearing asymmetry. Calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) expression in dorsal root ganglia (DRGs) was examined using immunofluorescence analysis. The afferent neurons in DRGs innervating the joint were identified by retrograde labeling with fluorogold. Progressive cartilage loss was observed during 12 weeks after OA induction. Subchondral bone remodeling manifested as increased bone resorption at early stage (4 weeks), but as increased bone accretion at advanced stages (8 weeks). Immediately and early ZOL administration significantly improved subchondral microstructural parameters, attenuated cartilage degeneration, reduced weight-bearing asymmetry and CGRP expression, whereas the late ZOL administration had no significant effects. The stage of OA progression influences the efficacy of ZOL in treating joint degeneration and pain. To obtain the maximum efficacy, bisphosphonate treatment should be initiated in rat with early stages of OA pathogenesis.