Anti-oxidant and immune-modulatory properties of sulfated alginate derivatives on human chondrocytes and macrophages
Degeneration of articular cartilage represents one of the most common causes of pain and disability in our aging society. Current treatments only address the symptoms of joint disease, but not their underlying causes which include oxidative stress and inflammation in cartilage and surrounding tissues. Sulfated biopolymers that mimic aspects of the native extracellular environment of cartilage are recently gaining interest as a means to slow the inflammatory events responsible for tissue degeneration. Here we show that the natural polysaccharide alginate and particularly its sulfated derivatives have potent anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-immunogenic properties in vitro. We found that these polymers exert a free radical scavenging activity in a sulfation-dependent manner. In particular, the sulfation degree of substitution of alginate directly correlated with its ability to scavenge superoxide radicals and to chelate metal ions. We also studied the effect of sulfated alginate on the ability of IL-1β to stimulate inflammatory genes in human chondrocytes and found decreased expression of the pro-inflammatory markers IL-6 and CXCL8, which inversely correlated with the sulfation degree. Moreover, in studies testing the ability of the alginates to modulate macrophage polarization, we found that they decreased both the gene expression and synthesis of the proinflammatory cytokine TNF-α in human THP-1 macrophages with M1-like phenotype in a sulfation-dependent manner. To conclude, sulfated alginates effectively protect against oxidative stress and inflammation in vitro and are a promising biomaterial to be explored for treatment of osteoarthritis.