Hypertension contributes to exacerbated osteoarthritis pathophysiology in rats in a sex-dependent manner



Background:

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.


Methods:

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.


Results:

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).


Conclusion:

These data provide preliminary evidence that hypertension influences OA progression and encourages further study into the autonomic nervous system as a possible mechanism.


Keywords:

Autonomic nervous system; Hypertension; Osteoarthritis.



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