Bovine cartilage is mainly comprised of the protein collagen and proteoglycans. Proteoglycans are composed of a core protein to which polysaccharides, known as glycosaminoglycans (GAGs) or mucopolysaccharides, are attached. The main glycosaminoglycan in bovine cartilage is chondroitin sulfate.
Chondroitin is composed of Type II collagen and glycosaminogycans, and is derived from bovine trachea cartilage. Poorly absorbed unless given in the form of chondroitin sulfate, it accumulates in synovial fluid and cartilage. Chondroitin is the main glycosaminoglycan in human cartilage, and stimulates cartilage formation through stimulating chondrocyte metabolism and collagen/proteoglycan synthesis. In addition, human leukocyte elastase and hyaluronidase, which attack cartilage, are inhibited by chondroitin. It may also have mild anti-inflammatory effects and may increase cartilage repair through increased levels of hyaluronic acid.Chondroitin sulfate is given together with glucosamine, a compound that is a building block of cartilage. The chondroitin helps to attract and hold fluid within cartilage tissue. Tissue fluid keeps cartilage healthy in two ways:
Bovine cartilage (BTC) supplements work by blocking the development of new blood vessels which helps to isolate cancers, tumors, and other diseases to prevent their growth and spread. By restricting the development of blood vessels (anti-angiogenic), bovine cartilage also decreases pain and inflammation. It can be helpful against the symptoms of arthritis.
Pharmacology - Chondroitin sulfate belongs to a family of heteropolysaccharides called glycosaminoglycans or GAGs. Glycosaminoglycans were formerly known as mucopolysaccharides. GAGs in the form of proteoglycans comprise the ground substance in the extracellular matrix of connective tissue. Chondroitin sulfate is made up of linear repeating units containing D-galactosamine and D-glucuronic acid. The molecular weight of chondroitin sulfate ranges from 5,000 to 50,000 daltons and contains about 15 to 150 basic units of D-galactosamine and D-glucuronic acid.
Classifications of types of Chondroitin sulfates:
The source of chondroitin sulfate used in nutritional supplements includes the cartilaginous rings of bovine trachea and pork byproducts (ears and snout). Shark cartilage and whale septum cartilage have also been used to obtain chondroitin sulfate. Chondroitin sulfate supplements are usually isomeric mixtures of chondroitin sulfate A (chondroitin 4-sulfate) and chondroitin sulfate C (chondroitin 6-sulfate).
Actions - Much is known about the biochemistry and physiology of chondroitin sulfate and similar molecules. Glycoproteins known as proteoglycans form the ground substance in the extracellular matrix of connective tissue. Proteoglycans are polyanionic substances of high molecular weight and contain heteropolysaccharide-side-chains covalently linked to a polypeptide-chain backbone. The polysaccharides, which include chondroitin sulfate and hyaluronic acid, make up as much as 95% of the proteoglycan structure.
The polysaccharides in proteoglycans are called glycosaminoglycans or GAGs. Chondroitin sulfate and hyaluronic acid are vital for the structure and function of articular cartilage. Chondroitin sulfate and hyaluronic acid are fundamental components of aggrecan found in articular cartilage. Aggrecan confers upon articular cartilage shock-absorbing properties. It does this by providing cartilage with a swelling pressure that is restrained by the tensile force of collagen fibers. This balance confers upon articular cartilage the deformable resilience vital to its function. Hyaluronic acid, which is also found in synovial fluid, has lubricating properties for the joint.
In the progression of degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis, aggrecan synthesis is decreased, leading to the loss of cartilage resiliency and the pain and other symptoms that accompany osteoarthritis.
Intra-articular injections of hyaluronic acid, an FDA-approved drug, can relieve joint pain and improve mobility. This type of therapy is called viscotherapy and is believed to act by improving joint lubrication. If chondroitin sulfate were delivered into joints, some similar effects would be expected. Animal studies have shown that parenterally administered chondroitin sulfate does get into cartilage tissue as does orally administered chondroitin sulfate. There is some human data suggesting orally administered chondroitin sulfate, particularly low-molecular-weight chondroitin sulfate, is also delivered to articular tissue. There is some indication that orally administered chondroitin sulfate leads to increases in hyaluronic acid and viscosity of synovial fluid, as well as decreases in collagenase in synovial fluid. That is, glucosamine delivered into joints may inhibit enzymes involved in cartilage degradation and enhance the production of hyaluronic acid.
Contraindications - Mild gastrointestinal disturbances may occur, and since chondroitin is a minor component of a heparin-like compound, there is some concern that it may be an anticoagulant. As s result, persons taking aspirin or other anticoagulants should use caution. In addition, though it has not been shown to cause birth defects in animals, pregnant animals given chondroitin had newborns that weighed 10-20% less than untreated animals. Those with renal failure or liver failure should exercise caution in the use of bovine cartilage. Chondroitin should be avoided in children, during lactation, and in people with severe liver or kidney disease, as safety has not been evaluated in these groups.