Hypertension is a common comorbidity of osteoarthritis (OA) with known autonomic dysregulation; thus, the autonomic nervous system may provide a shared underlying mechanism. The objective of this study was to examine the role of the autonomic nervous system in a preclinical model of OA and hypertension.
Experiments were conducted in spontaneously hypertensive rats and a normotensive control strain, including male and female rats. OA was surgically induced via medial meniscus transection with skin incision used as a sham control (n = 7-8/strain/sex/surgery). Tactile sensitivity, anxiety-related behavior, and serum corticosterone were measured at baseline then bi-weekly across 8 weeks. At weeks 9-10, cardiovascular responses to a chemical vagal nerve agonist were determined to indirectly evaluate vagus nerve function. The joint structure was assessed via grading of histological sections.
In males, OA resulted in thinner cartilage in both hypertensive (OA vs. non-OA p < 0.001) and normotensive (OA vs. non-OA p < 0.001). Only females with comorbid hypertension and OA displayed thinner cartilage (p = 0.013). Male hypertensive OA animals had increased calcified subchondral bone compared to normotensive OA animals (p = 0.043) while female hypertensive OA animals had increased calcified subchondral bone compared to hypertensive sham animals (p < 0.001). All MCLT+MMT groups developed low-grade synovitis; interestingly, hypertensive OA females had higher synovitis scores than normotensive OA females (p = 0.046). Additionally, hypertension led to larger drops in blood pressure with vagal activation in both OA (hypertensive vs. normotensive p = 0.018) and sham (hypertensive vs. normotensive p < 0.001) male animals. In females, this trend held true only in OA animals (normotensive vs. hypertensive p = 0.005).
These data provide preliminary evidence that hypertension influences OA progression and encourages further study into the autonomic nervous system as a possible mechanism.
Autonomic nervous system; Hypertension; Osteoarthritis.