Supplements of glucosamine hydrochloride, low molecular weight chondroitin sulfate, and manganese ascorbate were tested separately and in combination for their ability to retard progression of cartilage degeneration in a rabbit instability model of osteoarthrosis. Computerized quantitative histologic evaluation of safranin O stained sections of the medial femoral condyles measured the grade and extent of tissue involvement of lesions. Severe lesions (Mankin grade greater than 7) were absent in all animals supplemented with a dietary mixture of glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and manganese ascorbate. Total linear involvement (mm of lesioned surface) and total grade (mean grade × number of lesions per animal) were reduced significantly in animals given the combination compared with controls (59% and 74% respectively). Animals supplemented with glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, or manganese ascorbate alone had less moderate and severe tissue involvement than controls but not to the extent of the combined group. In vitro, a combination of glucosamine hydrochloride and chondroitin sulfate acted synergistically in stimulating glycosaminoglycan synthesis (96.6%). Chon-droitin sulfate and manganese ascorbate but not glucosamine were effective in inhibiting degradative enzyme activity. These data suggest that the disease modifying effect (the ability to retard progression of cartilage degeneration) of a mixture of glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and manganese ascorbate is more efficacious than either agent alone.