Background/Aims: Current drug therapies for osteoarthritis (OA) are not practical because of the cytotoxicity and severe side-effects associated with most of them. Artemisinin (ART), an antimalarial agent, is well known for its safety and selectivity to kill injured cells. Based on its anti-inflammatory activity and role in the inhibition of OA-associated Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway, which is crucial in the pathogenesis of OA, we hypothesized that ART might have an effect on OA. Methods: The chondro-protective and antiarthritic effects of ART on interleukin-1-beta (IL-1β)-induced and OA patient-derived chondrocytes were investigated in vitro using cell viability assay, glycosaminoglycan secretion, immunofluorescence, quantitative reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction, and western blotting. We also used OA model rats constructed by anterior cruciate ligament transection and medial meniscus resection (ACLT+MMx) in the joints to investigate the effects of ART on OA by gross observation, morphological staining, immunohistochemistry, and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Results: ART exhibited potent anti-inflammatory effects by inhibiting the expression of proinflammatory chemokines and cytokines, including interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-6, tumor necrosis factor alpha, and matrix metallopeptidase-13. It also showed favorable chondro-protective effect as evidenced by enhanced cell proliferation and viability, increased glycosaminoglycan deposition, prevention of chondrocyte apoptosis, and degeneration of cartilage. Further, ART inhibited OA progression and cartilage degradation via the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway, suggesting that it might serve as a Wnt/β-catenin antagonist to reduce inflammation and prevent cartilage degradation. Conclusion: In conclusion, ART alleviates IL-1β-mediated inflammatory response and OA progression by regulating the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway. Thereby, it might be developed as a potential therapeutic agent for OA.

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