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Imatinib Seen As Promising Systemic Sclerosis Treatment

Study shows potent anti-fibrotic effects in human fibrobast cultures and infected mice

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Because the leukemia drug imatinib mesylate has dramatic anti-fibrotic effects in vitro and in vivo, without toxic side effects, it may be a potential treatment for fibrotic diseases such as systemic sclerosis, according to the results of a study published in the January issue of Arthritis & Rheumatism.

Jorg H.W. Distler, M.D., of the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Erlangen, Germany, and colleagues collected fibroblast cultures from the lesions of five patients with systemic sclerosis and six healthy sex- and age-matched controls. The researchers stimulated the specimens with transforming growth factor beta and platelet-derived growth factor, and incubated them with imatinib mesylate. They also compared the effects of imatinib mesylate on laboratory mice with bleomycin-induced dermal fibrosis and healthy controls.

The researchers found that imatinib mesylate reduced the synthesis of extracellular matrix proteins, the number of myofibroblasts, and skin thickness of the systemic sclerosis fibroblast cultures close to the level of healthy controls. They also found that imatinib mesylate effectively suppressed the development of fibrosis in the infected mice.

"Considering the evidence that both transforming growth factor beta and platelet-derived growth factor are central to the pathogenesis of tissue fibrosis, there is realistic hope that imatinib mesylate will bring about a meaningful advance in the treatment of systemic sclerosis," states the author of an accompanying editorial.

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