Current therapies for meniscal injury seek to preserve and repair damaged tissue since loss of meniscal tissue is associated with degenerative changes in the joint, ultimately leading to osteoarthritis (OA). After a meniscal tear, the difficulty of integrating juxtaposed meniscal surfaces continues to be an obstacle. In order to determine the local factors that are necessary for successful tissue repair, previous studies have developed in vitro model systems that allow both biological and quantitative biomechanical measures of meniscus repair. Many studies have shown the importance of individual factors in meniscus metabolism, but there is a complex interplay among a variety of factors that influence meniscal healing, including inflammatory cytokines, growth factors, mechanical loading, and zonal differences in cell and tissue properties. In particular, the upregulation of inflammatory cytokines following joint injury appears to have significant catabolic influences on meniscal cell metabolic activity that must be overcome in order to promote repair. In the presence of inflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin-1 (IL-1) or tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), intrinsic meniscal repair in vitro is significantly inhibited. While anabolic growth factors, such as transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-beta1), enhance meniscal repair, they cannot completely overcome the IL-1-mediated inhibition of repair. The mechanisms by which these mediators influence meniscal repair, and their interactions with other factors in the microenvironment, such as mechanical loading, remain to be determined. Future studies must address these complex interactions during meniscal healing to ultimately enhance meniscal repair.
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