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Concept: Collagen


Every element or cell in the human body produces substances that communicate and respond in an autocrine or paracrine mode, consequently affecting organs and structures that are seemingly far from each other. The same also applies to the skin. In fact, when the integrity of the skin has been altered, or when its healing process is disturbed, it becomes a source of symptoms that are not merely cutaneous. The skin is an organ, and similar to any other structure, it has different functions in addition to connections with the central and peripheral nervous system. This article examines pathological responses produced by scars, analyzing definitions and differences. At the same time, it considers the subcutaneous fascias, as this connective structure is altered when there is a discontinuous cutaneous surface. The consequence is an ample symptomatology, which is not limited to the body area where the scar is located, such as a postural or trigeminal disorder.

Concepts: Nervous system, Scar, Wound healing, Collagen, Healing, Organ, Skin, Human anatomy


Morgellons disease is an emerging skin disease characterized by formation of dermal filaments associated with multisystemic symptoms and tick-borne illness. Some clinicians hypothesize that these often colorful dermal filaments are textile fibers, either self-implanted by patients or accidentally adhering to lesions, and conclude that patients with this disease have delusions of infestation. We present histological observations and electron microscopic imaging from representative Morgellons disease samples revealing that dermal filaments in these cases are keratin and collagen in composition and result from proliferation and activation of keratinocytes and fibroblasts in the epidermis. Spirochetes were detected in the dermatological specimens from our study patients, providing evidence that Morgellons disease is associated with an infectious process.

Concepts: Medicine, Infectious disease, Medical terms, Collagen, Hospital, Skin, Epidermis, Keratin


While the predominant function of all tendons is to transfer force from muscle to bone and position the limbs, some tendons additionally function as energy stores, reducing the cost of locomotion. Energy storing tendons experience extremely high strains and need to be able to recoil efficiently for maximum energy storage and return. In the equine forelimb, the energy storing superficial digital flexor tendon (SDFT) has much higher failure strains than the positional common digital extensor tendon (CDET). However, we have previously shown that this is not due to differences in the properties of the SDFT and CDET fascicles (the largest tendon subunits). Instead, there is a greater capacity for interfascicular sliding in the SDFT which facilitates the greater extensions in this particular tendon (Thorpe et al., 2012). In the current study, we exposed fascicles and interfascicular matrix (IFM) from the SDFT and CDET to cyclic loading followed by a test to failure. The results show that IFM mechanical behaviour is not a result of irreversible deformation, but the IFM is able to withstand cyclic loading, and is more elastic in the SDFT than in the CDET. We also assessed the effect of ageing on IFM properties, demonstrating that the IFM is less able to resist repetitive loading as it ages, becoming stiffer with increasing age in the SDFT. These results provide further indications that the IFM is important for efficient function in energy storing tendons, and age-related alterations to the IFM may compromise function and predispose older tendons to injury.

Concepts: Collagen, Muscle, Cartilage, Tendon


Multipotent mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) are found in various tissues and can proliferate extensively in vitro. MSCs have been used in preclinical animal studies and clinical trials in many fields. Adipose derived stem cells (ASCs) have several advantages compared to other MSCs for use in cell-based treatments because they are easy to isolate with relative abundance. However, quantitative approaches for wound repair using ASCs have been limited because of lack of animal models which allow for quantification. Here, we addressed the effect of topically delivered ASCs in wound repair by quantitative analysis using the rabbit ear model. We characterized rabbit ASCs, and analyzed their multipotency in comparison to bone marrow derived-MSCs (BM-MSCs) and dermal fibroblasts (DFs) in vitro. Topically delivered ASCs increased granulation tissue formation in wounds when compared to saline controls, whereas BM-MSCs or DFs did not. These studies suggest that ASCs and BM-MSCs are not identical, though they have similar surface markers. We found that topically delivered ASCs are engrafted and proliferate in the wounds. We showed that transplanted ASCs exhibited activated fibroblast phenotype, increased endothelial cell recruitment, and enhanced macrophage recruitment in vivo.

Concepts: Wound healing, Collagen, Extracellular matrix, Fibroblast, Stem cell, Mesenchymal stem cell, Bone marrow, Wound


Fibroblasts residing in connective tissues throughout the body are responsible for extracellular matrix (ECM) homeostasis and repair. In response to tissue damage, they activate to become myofibroblasts, which have organized contractile cytoskeletons and produce a myriad of proteins for ECM remodeling. However, persistence of myofibroblasts can lead to fibrosis with excessive collagen deposition and tissue stiffening. Thus, understanding which signals regulate de-activation of myofibroblasts during normal tissue repair is critical. Substrate modulus has recently been shown to regulate fibrogenic properties, proliferation and apoptosis of fibroblasts isolated from different organs. However, few studies track the cellular responses of fibroblasts to dynamic changes in the microenvironmental modulus. Here, we utilized a light-responsive hydrogel system to probe the fate of valvular myofibroblasts when the Young’s modulus of the substrate was reduced from ~32 kPa, mimicking pre-calcified diseased tissue, to ~7 kPa, mimicking healthy cardiac valve fibrosa. After softening the substrata, valvular myofibroblasts de-activated with decreases in α-smooth muscle actin (α-SMA) stress fibers and proliferation, indicating a dormant fibroblast state. Gene signatures of myofibroblasts (including α-SMA and connective tissue growth factor (CTGF)) were significantly down-regulated to fibroblast levels within 6 hours of in situ substrate elasticity reduction while a general fibroblast gene vimentin was not changed. Additionally, the de-activated fibroblasts were in a reversible state and could be re-activated to enter cell cycle by growth stimulation and to express fibrogenic genes, such as CTGF, collagen 1A1 and fibronectin 1, in response to TGF-β1. Our data suggest that lowering substrate modulus can serve as a cue to down-regulate the valvular myofibroblast phenotype resulting in a predominantly quiescent fibroblast population. These results provide insight in designing hydrogel substrates with physiologically relevant stiffness to dynamically redirect cell fate in vitro.

Concepts: Bone, Wound healing, Collagen, Extracellular matrix, Muscle, Tissues, Connective tissue, Young's modulus


Pirfenidone is a novel anti-fibrotic and anti-inflammatory agent that inhibits the progression of fibrosis in animal models and in patients with idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). We previously showed that pirfenidone inhibits the over-expression of collagen type I and of heat shock protein (HSP) 47, a collagen-specific molecular chaperone, in human lung fibroblasts stimulated with transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1 in vitro. The increased numbers of HSP47-positive type II pneumocytes as well as fibroblasts were also diminished by pirfenidone in an animal model of pulmonary fibrosis induced by bleomycin. The present study evaluates the effects of pirfenidone on collagen type I and HSP47 expression in the human alveolar epithelial cell line, A549 cells in vitro.

Concepts: Protein, Cell, Lung, Collagen, Fibrosis, Chaperone, Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, Heat shock protein


Bombyx mori cypovirus is a major pathogen which causes significant losses in silkworm cocoon harvests because the virus particles are embedded in micrometer-sized protein crystals called polyhedra and can remain infectious in harsh environmental conditions for years. But the remarkable stability of polyhedra can be applied on slow-release carriers of cytokines for tissue engineering. Here we show the complete healing in critical-sized bone defects by bone morphogenetic protein-2 (BMP-2) encapsulated polyhedra. Although absorbable collagen sponge (ACS) safely and effectively delivers recombinant human BMP-2 (rhBMP-2) into healing tissue, the current therapeutic regimens release rhBMP-2 at an initially high rate after which the rate declines rapidly. ACS impregnated with BMP-2 polyhedra had enough osteogenic activity to promote complete healing in critical-sized bone defects, but ACS with a high dose of rhBMP-2 showed incomplete bone healing, indicating that polyhedral microcrystals containing BMP-2 promise to advance the state of the art of bone healing.

Concepts: Bone, Collagen, Extracellular matrix, Healing, Bombyx mori, Bombycidae, Bombyx, Bombyx mandarina


Type I collagen is the most abundant protein in the human body. Its excessive synthesis results in fibrosis of various organs. Fibrosis is a major medical problem without an existing cure. Excessive synthesis of type I collagen in fibrosis is primarily due to stabilization of collagen mRNAs. We recently reported that intermediate filaments composed of vimentin regulate collagen synthesis by stabilizing collagen mRNAs. Vimentin is a primary target of Withaferin-A (WF-A). Therefore, we hypothesized that WF-A may reduce type I collagen production by disrupting vimentin filaments and decreasing the stability of collagen mRNAs. This study is to determine if WF-A exhibits anti-fibrotic properties in vitro and in vivo and to elucidate the molecular mechanisms of its action. In lung, skin and heart fibroblasts WF-A disrupted vimentin filaments at concentrations of 0.5-1.5 µM and reduced 3 fold the half-lives of collagen α1(I) and α2(I) mRNAs and protein expression. In addition, WF-A inhibited TGF-β1 induced phosphorylation of TGF-β1 receptor I, Smad3 phosphorylation and transcription of collagen genes. WF-A also inhibited in vitro activation of primary hepatic stellate cells and decreased their type I collagen expression. In mice, administration of 4 mg/kg WF-A daily for 2 weeks reduced isoproterenol-induced myocardial fibrosis by 50%. Our findings provide strong evidence that Withaferin-A could act as an anti-fibrotic compound against fibroproliferative diseases, including, but not limited to, cardiac interstitial fibrosis.

Concepts: Protein, Bone, Gene, Scar, Collagen, Fibrosis, Heart, In vitro


Alport syndrome is a hereditary glomerulopathy with proteinuria and nephritis caused by defects in genes encoding type IV collagen in the glomerular basement membrane. All male and most female patients develop end-stage renal disease. Effective treatment to stop or decelerate the progression of proteinuria and nephritis is still under investigation. Here we showed that combination treatment of mild electrical stress (MES) and heat stress (HS) ameliorated progressive proteinuria and renal injury in mouse model of Alport syndrome. The expressions of kidney injury marker neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin and pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin-6, tumor necrosis factor-α and interleukin-1β were suppressed by MES+HS treatment. The anti-proteinuric effect of MES+HS treatment is mediated by podocytic activation of phosphatidylinositol 3-OH kinase (PI3K)-Akt and heat shock protein 72 (Hsp72)-dependent pathways in vitro and in vivo. The anti-inflammatory effect of MES+HS was mediated by glomerular activation of c-jun NH(2)-terminal kinase ½ (JNK1/2) and p38-dependent pathways ex vivo. Collectively, our studies show that combination treatment of MES and HS confers anti-proteinuric and anti-inflammatory effects on Alport mice likely through the activation of multiple signaling pathways including PI3K-Akt, Hsp72, JNK1/2, and p38 pathways, providing a novel candidate therapeutic strategy to decelerate the progression of patho-phenotypes in Alport syndrome.

Concepts: Kidney, Nephrology, Collagen, Glomerulus, In vivo, In vitro, Glomerulonephritis, Alport syndrome


Articular cartilage maturation is the postnatal development process that adapts joint surfaces to their site-specific biomechanical demands. Maturation involves gross morphological changes that occur through a process of synchronised growth and resorption of cartilage and generally ends at sexual maturity. The inability to induce maturation in biomaterial constructs designed for cartilage repair has been cited as a major cause for their failure in producing persistent cell-based repair of joint lesions. The combination of growth factors FGF2 and TGFβ1 induces accelerated articular cartilage maturation in vitro such that many molecular and morphological characteristics of tissue maturation are observable. We hypothesised that experimental growth factor-induced maturation of immature cartilage would result in a biophysical and biochemical composition consistent with a mature phenotype. Using native immature and mature cartilage as reference, we observed that growth factor-treated immature cartilages displayed increased nano-compressive stiffness, decreased surface adhesion, decreased water content, increased collagen content and smoother surfaces, correlating with a convergence to the mature cartilage phenotype. Furthermore, increased gene expression of surface structural protein collagen type I in growth factor-treated explants compared to reference cartilages demonstrates that they are still in the dynamic phase of the postnatal developmental transition. These data provide a basis for understanding the regulation of postnatal maturation of articular cartilage and the application of growth factor-induced maturation in vitro and in vivo in order to repair and regenerate cartilage defects.

Concepts: Bone, Gene, Molecular biology, Collagen, Cartilage, Knee, Biochemistry, Articular cartilage repair