The combination of cross-linked hyaluronate (cHA) and corticosteroid showed more rapid pain or functional improvement in knee osteoarthritis and adhesive capsulitis. However, rare evidence of this combination in treating tendinopathy has been reported. We hypothesized that the specific formulations of cHA and dexamethasone (DEX) conferred amelioration of tendinopathy via anti-apoptosis and anti-senescence. In this controlled laboratory study, primary tenocytes from the human tendinopathic long head of biceps were treated with three cHA formulations (cHA:linealized HA = 80:20, 50:50, and 20:80) + DEX with or without IL-1β stimulation. Cell viability, inflammatory cytokines, tendon-related proliferation markers, matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), senescent markers, and apoptosis were examined. The in vivo therapeutic effects of the selected cHA + DEX combinations were evaluated in a collagenase-induced rat patellar tendinopathy model. The expression levels of inflammatory mediators, including IL-1β, IL-6, COX-2, MMP-1, and MMP-3 were significantly reduced in all cHA + DEX-treated tenocytes (p < 0.05, all). The cHA (50:50) + DEX and cHA (20:80) + DEX combinations protected tenocytes from cytotoxicity, senescence, and apoptosis induced by DEX in either IL-1β stimulation or none. Furthermore, the two combinations significantly improved the rat experimental tendinopathy by reducing ultrasound feature scores and histological scores as well as the levels of apoptosis, senescence, and senescence-associated secretory phenotypes (p < 0.05, all). We identified two specific cHA formulations (cHA (50:50) and cHA (20:80)) + DEX that could ameliorate tendinopathy through anti-senescence and -apoptosis without cytotoxicity. This study provides a possible approach to treating tendinopathy using the combination of two well-known agents.
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