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Nerve growth factor in the equine joint

Last changed: 08 July 2021

Nerve growth factor (NGF) is a neurotrophin with many functions. In humans, it is involved in inflammation, nerve growth, apoptosis and pain signalling. Increased concentrations of NGF in synovial fluid has been shown in humans and dogs with osteoarthritis. Despite osteoarthritis being a common problem in horses, no studies have previously been published on NGF in the equine joint.

The aim of this study was to quantify NGF in equine synovial fluid from healthy joints, acutely inflamed septic joints and joints with structural changes associated with osteoarthritis. A secondary aim was to identify the localisation of NGF and its two receptors, TrkA and p75NTR, in healthy and osteoarthritic articular cartilage. NGF concentrations in synovial fluid from osteoarthritic joints (n = 27), septic joints (n = 9) and healthy joints (n = 16) were determined by ELISA. In addition, articular cartilage from osteoarthritic and healthy joints was examined for NGF, TrkA and p75NTR using immunohistochemistry staining.

NGF was present in equine synovial fluid and articular cartilage. Compared to synovial fluid from healthy joints, NGF concentration was higher in synovial fluid from joints with structural osteoarthritic changes (P = 0.032) or acute septic inflammation (P = 0.006). In articular cartilage with severe osteoarthritic changes, there was more abundant positive immunohistochemistry staining for NGF and its receptors than in normal articular cartilage.

Further studies should focus on identifying precursor forms of NGF, and on receptor expression and downstream signalling of TrkA and P75NTR in health and disease.

Link to publication


A. Kendall, S. Nyström, S. Ekman, L.M. Hultén, A. Lindahl, E. Hansson, E. Skiöldebrand. Nerve growth factor in the equine joint. The Veterinary Journal (2021), volume 267, 105579


Anna Kendall
Doctoral student at the Department of Biomedical Science and Veterinary Public Health; Pathology Unit

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