Serum levels of vascular dysfunction markers reflect disease severity and stage in systemic sclerosis patients

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Objective. To improve knowledge of vasculopathy in SSc through the assessment of serum levels of circulating angiogenetic and endothelial dysfunction markers in patients at different stages of the disease.

Methods. Sera from 224 subjects were obtained and concentrations of angiopoietin-2, chemokine (C-X-C motif) ligand (CXCL)-16 (CXCL16), E-selectin, soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1, IL-8 (CXCL8), soluble vascular adhesion molecule-1 and VEGF were determined by a Luminex assay. Subjects included 43 healthy controls, 47 early SSc patients according to LeRoy and Medsger without other signs and symptoms of evolutive disease, 48 definitive SSc (defSSc) patients according to the 2013 ACR/EULAR criteria without skin or lung fibrosis, 51 lcSSc subjects and 35 dcSSc subjects.

Results. The four groups of patients showed well-distinct clinical and laboratory characteristics, with a linear decreasing trend in forced vital capacity and diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide % predicted values from early SSc to defSSc to lcSSc and to dcSSc, and a linear increasing trend in ESR, and in the prevalence of abnormal CRP, serum gamma globulins and lung fibrosis (all P < 0.0001). Highly significant linear trends pointing to an increase in angiopoietin-2 (P < 0.0001), CXCL16 (P < 0.0001), E-selectin (P = 0.001) and soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (P = 0.002) in relation to the different disease subsets were observed.

Conclusion. Markers characterizing vascular activation are found to be increased in SSc patients from the earliest stages of disease when clinical and laboratory findings of advanced disease cannot yet be detected. These abnormalities progress with the appraisal of the first sclerodermatous manifestation in defSSc and further increase with the onset of fibrotic manifestations.

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