Cellular senescence is a significant contributing cause of osteoarthritis in old age, and senolytic therapies capable of selectively destroying senescent cells are presently undergoing clinical trials in osteoarthritic patients. Researchers here investigate a specific population of senescent cells, the supporting mesenchymal stem cells found in and around joint tissue, and establish that they are important in the progression of osteoarthritis.
Tissue accumulation of p16INK4a-positive senescent cells is associated with age-related disorders, such as osteoarthritis (OA). These cell-cycle arrested cells affect tissue function through a specific secretory phenotype. The links between OA onset and senescence remain poorly described. Using experimental OA protocol and transgenic mice, we found that the senescence-driving p16INK4a is a marker of the disease, expressed by the synovial tissue, but is also an actor: its somatic deletion partially protects against cartilage degeneration.
We test whether by becoming senescent, the mesenchymal stromal/stem cells (MSCs), found in the synovial tissue and sub-chondral bone marrow, can contribute to OA development. We established an in vitro p16INK4a-positive senescence model on human MSCs. Upon senescence induction, their intrinsic stem cell properties are altered. When co-cultured with OA chondrocytes, senescent MSC show also an impairment favoring tissue degeneration.
To evaluate in vivo the effects of p16INK4a-senescent MSC on healthy cartilage, we rely on the SAMP8 mouse model of accelerated senescence that develops spontaneous OA. MSCs isolated from these mice expressed p16INK4a. Intra-articular injection in 2-month-old C57BL/6JRj male mice of SAMP8-derived MSCs was sufficient to induce articular cartilage breakdown. Our findings reveal that senescent p16INK4a-positive MSCs contribute to joint alteration.