Dupuytren's contracture (DC) is a benign fibro-proliferative disease of the hand causing fibrotic nodules and fascial cords which determine debilitating contracture and deformities of fingers and hands. The present study was designed to characterize pro-inflammatory cytokines and growth factors involved in the pathogenesis, progression and recurrence of this disease, in order to find novel targets for alternative therapies and strategies in controlling DC. The expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines and of growth factors was detected by immunohistochemistry in fibrotic nodules and normal palmar fascia resected respectively from patients affected by DC and carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS; as negative controls). Reverse transcription (RT)-PCR analysis and immunofluorescence were performed to quantify the expression of transforming growth factor (TGF)-β1, interleukin (IL)-1β and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) by primary cultures of myofibroblasts and fibroblasts isolated from Dupuytren's nodules. Histological analysis showed high cellularity and high proliferation rate in Dupuytren's tissue, together with the presence of myofibroblastic isotypes; immunohistochemical staining for macrophages was completely negative. In addition, a strong expression of TGF-β1, IL-1β and VEGF was evident in the extracellular matrix and in the cytoplasm of fibroblasts and myofibroblasts in Dupuytren's nodular tissues, as compared with control tissues. These results were confirmed by RT-PCR and by immunofluorescence in pathological and normal primary cell cultures. These preliminary observations suggest that TGF-β1, IL-1β and VEGF may be considered potential therapeutic targets in the treatment of Dupuytren's disease (DD).

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