Objectives: Dysregulated coagulation cascade has been implicated in development of fibrosis in systemic sclerosis (SSc). Thrombin, a key mediator of the coagulation pathway, has both proinflammatory and procoagulant properties. Here, we evaluated the efficacy of oral dabigatran, a direct thrombin inhibitor, on topoisomerase I dendritic cells (TOPOIA DCs)-induced lung and skin fibrosis, an experimental model of SSc.
Methods: Mice were repeatedly immunized with TOPOIA DCs. Dabigatran was administered in food either during the onset of fibrotic (late treatment) or inflammatory (early treatment) phase.
Results: Early administration of dabigatran caused an aggravation of pulmonary fibrosis associated with signs of severe perivascular inflammation while late treatment was not protective when compared to the untreated TOPOIA DCs group. Thrombin was increased in lungs of TOPOIA DCs immunized group and, paradoxically, further augmented by administration of dabigatran to immunized mice. As in lungs, early and not late drug administration exacerbated skin fibrosis. Moreover, early dabigatran treatment induced a profibrotic and inflammatory skin gene expression signature with upregulated expression of Col5a1, Timp1, Tweakr, Vwf, Il6, Il33, Il4 and Ifng.
Conclusions: Dabigatran aggravated lung and skin fibrosis in a TOPOIA DCs-induced model of SSc-like disease. Therefore, our results argue against the use of dabigatran to treat patients with SSc.