Stimulation of the Superficial Zone Protein and Lubrication in the Articular Cartilage by Human Platelet-Rich Plasma

December 13, 2019

Background: Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) contains high concentrations of autologous growth factors that originate from platelets. Intra-articular injections of PRP have the potential to ameliorate the symptoms of osteoarthritis in the knee. Superficial zone protein (SZP) is a boundary lubricant in articular cartilage and plays an important role in reducing friction and wear and therefore is critical in cartilage homeostasis.

Purpose: To determine if PRP influences the production of SZP from human joint-derived cells and to evaluate the lubricating properties of PRP on normal bovine articular cartilage.

Study Design: Controlled laboratory study.

Methods: Cells were isolated from articular cartilage, synovium, and the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) from 12 patients undergoing ACL reconstruction. The concentrations of SZP in PRP and culture media were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Cellular proliferation was quantified by determination of cell numbers. The lubrication properties of PRP from healthy volunteers on bovine articular cartilage were investigated using a pin-on-disk tribometer.

Results: In general, PRP stimulated proliferation in cells derived from articular cartilage, synovium, and ACL. It also significantly enhanced SZP secretion from synovium- and cartilage-derived cells. An unexpected finding was the presence of SZP in PRP (2.89 6 1.23 mg/mL before activation and 3.02 6 1.32 mg/mL after activation). In addition, under boundary mode conditions consisting of high loads and low sliding speeds, nonactivated and thrombin-activated PRP decreased the friction coefficient (m = 0.012 and m = 0.015, respectively) compared with saline (m = 0.047, P .004) and high molecular weight hyaluronan (m = 0.080, P .006). The friction coefficient of the cartilage with PRP was on par with that of synovial fluid.

Conclusion: PRP significantly stimulates cell proliferation and SZP secretion by articular cartilage and synovium of the human knee joint. Furthermore, PRP contains endogenous SZP and, in a functional bioassay, lubricates bovine articular cartilage explants.