The effect of silymarin (Silybum marianum) on human skin fibroblasts in an in vitro wound healing model

Pharm Biol. 2013 Mar;51(3):298-303. doi: 10.3109/13880209.2012.721789. Epub 2012 Nov 8.


Context: Silymarin, a flavonolignan from Silybum marianum (L.) Gaertn. (Asteraceae), has been reported to have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Therefore, it may be worthwhile to study the effect of silymarin on wound healing.

Objective: To evaluate the effect of silymarin on human fibroblast cells in an in vitro model of wound healing.

Materials and methods: Human fibroblast cells were treated with different concentrations (4.5, 9, 18, 36 µg/mL) of silymarin. The effects of silymarin on cell viability, proliferation, collagen synthesis, and expression of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and inducible nitric oxide synthetase (iNOS) were assessed by 3-(4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide, 5-bromo-2'-deoxy-uridine, hydroxyproline analysis and real-time PCR, respectively. The effect of silymarin on cellular antioxidant status was determined by protection against hydrogen peroxide (H₂O₂)-induced cell injury and free radical scavenging activity (ABTS assay) of the cells.

Results: Results of the present study indicate that pretreatment of fibroblast cells with silymarin significantly protected cells against H₂O₂-induced injury (p < 0.05). After an 18 h treatment of cells with 36 µg/mL silymarin, total antioxidant capacity of cells significantly increased (p < 0.05). Furthermore, pretreatment of human fibroblast cells with silymarin significantly inhibited lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced COX-2 mRNA expression (p < 0.001). There was no significant difference in fibroblast proliferation and collagen synthesis between treatment and control groups (p > 0.05).

Discussion and conclusion: Silymarin may be useful as a therapeutic agent for the treatment of cutaneous wounds through its antioxidation and anti-inflammation effects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / pharmacology*
  • Antioxidants / adverse effects
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 / biosynthesis
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 / genetics
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 / metabolism
  • Dermatologic Agents / adverse effects
  • Dermatologic Agents / pharmacology
  • Enzyme Induction / drug effects
  • Foreskin / cytology
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / toxicity
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lipopolysaccharides / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Lipopolysaccharides / toxicity
  • Male
  • Osmolar Concentration
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Silymarin / adverse effects
  • Silymarin / pharmacology*
  • Skin / drug effects*
  • Wound Healing / drug effects*


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal
  • Antioxidants
  • Dermatologic Agents
  • Lipopolysaccharides
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Silymarin
  • lipopolysaccharide, Escherichia coli O111 B4
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • PTGS2 protein, human