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Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that causes dermal fibrosis. It occurs when collagen accumulates in tissue as a result of persistent inflammation. Th17 cells and pro-inflammatory cytokines such as IL-1β, IL-6, IL-17, and TNF-α play important roles in the pathogenesis of scleroderma. Because metformin, a medication used to treat diabetes, has effective immunoregulatory functions, we investigated its therapeutic function in scleroderma. Mice in a model of bleomycin-induced scleroderma were treated with metformin for 2 weeks. Histological assessment demonstrated protective effects of metformin against scleroderma. Metformin decreased the expression of pro-inflammatory factors in dermal tissue and lymphocytes. It also decreased mRNA expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-1β, IL-6, IL-17, and TNF-α) and fibrosis-inducing molecules both in vivo and in vitro. These results suggest that metformin treatment has anti-inflammatory effects on lymphocytes via the inhibition of IL-17 and cytokines related to Th17 differentiation, such as IL-1β, IL-6, and TNF-α. To investigate how metformin modulates the inflammatory process in skin fibroblasts, we measured mTOR-STAT3 signaling in skin fibroblasts and found that phosphorylated mTOR and phosphorylated STAT3 protein expression were decreased by metformin treatment. These results suggest that metformin has potential to treat scleroderma by inhibiting pro-inflammatory cytokines and anti-inflammatory activity mediated by mTOR-STAT3 signaling.
Moon, J., Lee, S. yeong, Choi, J. W., Lee, A. R., Yoo, J. H., Moon, S. J., … Cho, M. L. (2021). Metformin ameliorates scleroderma via inhibiting Th17 cells and reducing mTOR-STAT3 signaling in skin fibroblasts. Journal of Translational Medicine, 19(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12967-021-02860-z