The potential role of synovial cells in the progression and treatment of osteoarthritis

Synovial cells play an important role in the progression of osteoarthritis (OA). This article summarizes the biological functions of the synovium, synovial cells, and synovial fluid, discussing their potential roles in OA. Preclinical and clinical studies related to targeting synovial cells and synovial mesenchymal stem cell (SMSC)-based treatments are also included. This paper will be beneficial for clinicians seeking to further understand the potential role of synovial cells in the progression and treatment of OA.


Osteoarthritis (OA), the commonest arthritis, is characterized by the progressive destruction of cartilage, leading to disability. The Current early clinical treatment strategy for OA often centers on anti-inflammatory or analgesia medication, weight loss, improved muscular function and articular cartilage repair. Although these treatments can relieve symptoms, OA tends to be progressive, and most patients require arthroplasty at the terminal stages of OA. Recent studies have shown a close correlation between joint pain, inflammation, cartilage destruction and synovial cells. Consequently, understanding the potential mechanisms associated with the action of synovial cells in OA could be beneficial for the clinical management of OA. Therefore, this review comprehensively describes the biological functions of synovial cells, the synovium, together with the pathological changes of synovial cells in OA, and the interaction between the cartilage and synovium, which is lacking in the present literature. Additionally, therapeutic approaches based on synovial cells for OA treatment are further discussed from a clinical perspective, highlighting a new direction in the treatment of OA.

Author list:

Zaijun Zou, Han Li, Kai Yu, Ke Ma, Qiguang Wang, Junnan Tang, Guozhen Liu, Khoon Lim, Gary Hooper, Tim Woodfield, Xiaolin Cui*, Weiguo Zhang*, Kang Tian*

How to cite:

Z. Zou, H. Li, K. Yu, K. Ma, Q. Wang, J. Tang, G. Liu, K. Lim, G. Hooper, T. Woodfield, X. Cui, W. Zhang, K. Tian, Exploration 2023, 20220132.