Adipose-derived mesenchymal stem cells (ASCs) have gained attention as a new treatment for systemic sclerosis (SSc). Low-molecular-weight heparin (LMWH) enhances cell function and stimulates the production of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) in a variety of cells. This study investigated the effects of LMWH on the functions of mouse ASCs (mASCs), and the therapeutic effects of mASCs activated with LMWH (hep-mASCs) in mouse models of SSc.
The cellular functions of mASCs cultured with different concentrations of LMWH were determined. Mice were divided into four groups: bleomycin (BLM)-induced SSc (BLM-alone), BLM-induced SSc administered with mASCs (BLM-mASC), and BLM-induced SSc administered with mASCs activated with 10 or 100 μg/mL LMWH (BLM-hep-mASC); there were 9 mice per group (n = 9). Skin inflammation and fibrosis were evaluated using histological and biochemical examinations and gene expression levels.
In vitro assays showed that migration ability and HGF production were significantly higher in hep-mASCs than in mASCs alone. The mRNA expression levels of cell migration factors were significantly upregulated in hep-mASCs compared to those in mASCs alone. The hep-mASCs accumulated in the skin tissues more than mASCs alone. The thickness of skin and hydroxyproline content in BLM-hep-mASC groups were significantly decreased, and the skin mRNA expression levels of interleukin-2, α-smooth muscle actin, transforming growth factor β1, collagen type 1 alpha 1, and tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase 2 were significantly downregulated compared to those in the BLM-alone group.
hep-mASCs showed higher anti-inflammatory and anti-fibrotic effects than mASCs alone and may be a promising candidate for SSc treatment.