Delivery of therapeutic small interfering RNAs (siRNAs) in an effective dose to articular cartilage is very challenging as the cartilage dense extracellular matrix renders the chondrocytes inaccessible, even to intra-articular injections. Herein, we used a self-assembling peptidic nanoparticle (NP) platform featuring a cell penetrating peptide complexed to NF-κB p65 siRNA. We show that it efficiently and deeply penetrated human cartilage to deliver its siRNA cargo up to a depth of at least 700 μm. To simulate osteoarthritis in vitro, human articular cartilage explants were placed in culture and treated with IL-1β, a cytokine with known cartilage catabolic and pro-inflammatory effects. Exposure of peptide-siRNA NP to cartilage explants markedly suppressed p65 activation, an effect that persisted up to 3 weeks after an initial 48 h exposure to NP and in the presence of continuous IL-1β stimulation. Suppression of IL-1β-induced p65 activity attenuated chondrocyte apoptosis and maintained cartilage homeostasis. These findings confirm our previous in vivo studies in a murine model of post-traumatic osteoarthritis and suggest that the ability of peptide-siRNA NP to specifically modulate NF-κB pathway, a central regulator of the inflammatory responses in chondrocytes, may potentially mitigate the progression of cartilage degeneration.

Original languageEnglish
Article number442
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019


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