Prolonging chondrocyte survival is essential to ensure fresh osteochondral (OC) grafts for treatment of articular cartilage lesions. Doxycycline has been shown to enhance cartilage growth, disrupt terminal differentiation of chondrocytes, and inhibit cartilage matrix degradation. It is unknown whether doxycycline prolongs chondrocyte survival in OC grafts. We hypothesized that doxycycline protects against chondrocyte death and maintains function of articular cartilage. To test this hypothesis, we employed human and calf articular cartilages, and incubated chondrocytes isolated from cartilage or cartilage plugs with doxycycline (0, 1 or 10 μg/ml) at either 37°C or 4°C. Chondrocyte viability, apoptosis, glycosaminoglycan (GAG), collagen, and mechanical test in cartilage plugs were measured. We found that reduced chondrocyte viability, increased chondrocyte apoptosis, reduced GAG contents, and impaired equilibrium modulus in cartilage plugs were observed in a time‐dependent manner at both 37°C and 4°C. Chondrocyte viability was further reduced when the plugs were cultured at 4°C as compared to 37°C. Doxycycline prolonged viability and reduced apoptosis of chondrocytes during culture of cartilage plugs. Functionally, doxycycline protected against reduced production of GAG and collagen II as well as impaired mechanical properties in cartilage plugs during culture. Mechanistically, doxycycline increased mitochondrial respiration in cultured chondrocytes. In conclusion, preservation at 37°C is beneficial for maintaining chondrocyte viability in cartilage plugs compared to 4°C. Incubation of doxycycline protects against chondrocyte apoptosis, reduced extracellular matrix, and impaired mechanical properties in cartilage plugs. The findings provide a potential approach using doxycycline at 37°C to preserve chondrocyte viability in fresh OC grafts for treatment of articular cartilage lesions.

To read the full article, please click here