Background: In patients with systemic sclerosis (scleroderma, SSc), impaired hand function greatly contributes to disability and reduced quality of life, and is insufficiently relieved by currently available therapies. Adipose tissue-derived stromal vascular fraction (SVF) is increasingly recognised as an easily accessible source of regenerative cells with therapeutic potential in ischaemic or autoimmune diseases. We aimed to measure for the first time the safety, tolerability and potential efficacy of autologous SVF cells local injections in patients with SSc with hand disability.
Methods: We did an open-label, single arm, at one study site with 6-month follow-up among 12 female SSc patients with Cochin Hand Function Scale score >20/90. Autologous SVF was obtained from lipoaspirates, using an automated processing system, and subsequently injected into the subcutaneous tissue of each finger in contact with neurovascular pedicles. Primary outcome was the number and the severity of adverse events related to SVF-based therapy. Secondary endpoints were changes in hand disability and fibrosis, vascular manifestations, pain and quality of life from baseline to 2 and 6 months after cell therapy.
Findings: All enrolled patients had surgery, and there were no dropouts or patients lost to follow-up. No severe adverse events occurred during the procedure and follow-up. Four minor adverse events were reported and resolved spontaneously. A significant improvement in hand disability and pain, Raynaud's phenomenon, finger oedema and quality of life was observed.
Interpretation: This study outlines the safety of the autologous SVF cells injection in the hands of patients with SSc. Preliminary assessments at 6 months suggest potential efficacy needing confirmation in a randomised placebo-controlled trial on a larger population.
Funding: GFRS (Groupe Francophone de Recherche sur la Sclérodermie).
Clinical trials number: NCT01813279.
Keywords: Autoimmune Diseases; Systemic Sclerosis; Treatment.
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