Elevated interleukin 8 and matrix metalloproteinase 9 levels are associated with myocardial pathology in users of Anabolic-Androgenic Steroids

Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2024 Apr 4:zwae126. doi: 10.1093/eurjpc/zwae126. Online ahead of print.


Aim: In the current paper, we aim to explore the effect of both current and former long-term anabolic-androgenic steroid (AAS) use on regulation of systemic inflammatory markers and mediators of extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling and their association with hormones and echocardiographic myocardial pathology in weightlifters.

Methods: In a cross-sectional study, 93 weightlifting AAS-users, of which 62 were current and 31 were past users, with at least one-year cumulative AAS-use (mean 11±7 accumulated years of AAS-use), were compared to 54 non-using weightlifting controls (WLC) using clinical interview, blood pressure measurements, and echocardiography.

Results: Serum levels of interleukin (IL)-6, IL-8, tumor necrosis factor (TNF), interferon (IFN)γ, growth differentiation factor (GDF)-15 and matrix metalloproteinase (MMP-9), sex hormones and lipids were analyzed. Serum levels of IL-8, GDF-15 and MMP-9 were significantly increased in current AAS users compared to former users and WLC. MMP-9, but not IL-8, correlated consistently with sex-hormone levels, and sex-hormone levels correlated consistently with mean wall thickness, in current users. Moreover, HDL cholesterol was significantly lower in current versus former AAS users, in significantly inversely correlated with MMP-9 in current users. Further, in current users, MMP-9 and IL-8 correlated with markers of myocardial strain, and MMP9 also with indices of cardiac mass, which was not seen in former users. Mediation analyses suggested that MMP-9 could partly explain hormone-induced alterations in markers of myocardial damage in current users.

Conclusion: In conclusion, long-term AAS is associated with increased levels of markers of inflammation and extracellular matrix remodeling, which seems to have a hormone-dependent (MMP-9) and hormone-independent (IL-8) association with markers of myocardial dysfunction.

Keywords: MMP; anabolic-androgenic steroids; hormones; inflammation; myocardial dysfunction.

Plain language summary

Long-term use of anabolic-androgenic steroids (AAS) can increase inflammation and mediators of extracellular matrix (ECM) remodeling which potentially could be involved in myocardial pathology seen in these individuals. AAS use increased levels of inflammatory marker IL-8 and marker of ECM remodeling MMP-9.IL-8 and MMP-9 were both associated with myocardial pathology in current, but not former users, suggesting that these markers are association with risk of myocardial damage during AAS use.