Background: Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is an autoimmune disease involving the skin and several internal organs. Most therapies available for this disease are symptomatic. Given the difficulty in treating SSc, we conducted this study to investigate the effect of combined plasmapheresis (PE) and allogeneic mesenchymal stem cells transplantation (MSCT) therapy on SSc.
Methods: Fourteen patients underwent three repeated PE treatments with subsequent pulse cyclophosphamide on days 1, 3 and 5. Patients received a single MSCT (1 × 106 cells/kg of body weight) on day 8. During follow up, evaluations performed included complete physical examination, serologic testing, and organ function.
Results: The mean modified Rodnan skin score (MRSS) improved from 20.1 ± 3.1 to 13.8 ± 10.2 (P < 0.001) at 12 months of follow up. Three patients had interstitial lung disease, all had improvement of lung function and improved computed tomography (CT) images after 12 months of combined therapy. This combined treatment also significantly decreased the anti-Scl70 autoantibody titer and serum transforming growth factor-β and vascular endothelial growth factor levels during follow up.
Conclusion: The results indicate that PE combined with MSCT is a feasible treatment associated with possible clinical benefit for SSc patients.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT00962923 . Registered on 19 August 2009.
Keywords: Mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs); Plasmapheresis (PE); Systemic sclerosis (SSc).