Endothelial cells enhance adipose mesenchymal stromal cell‐mediated matrix contraction via ALK receptors and reduced follistatin: Potential role of endothelial cells in skin fibrosis
Abnormal cutaneous wound healing can lead to formation of fibrotic hypertrophic scars. Although several clinical risk factors have been described, the cross‐talk between different cell types resulting in hypertrophic scar formation is still poorly understood. The aim of this in vitro study was to investigate whether endothelial cells (EC) may play a role in skin fibrosis, for example, hypertrophic scar formation after full‐thickness skin trauma. Using a collagen/elastin matrix, we developed an in vitro fibrosis model to study the interaction between EC and dermal fibroblasts or adipose tissue‐derived mesenchymal stromal cells (ASC). Tissue equivalents containing dermal fibroblasts and EC displayed a normal phenotype. In contrast, tissue equivalents containing ASC and EC displayed a fibrotic phenotype indicated by contraction of the matrix, higher gene expression of ACTA2, COL1A, COL3A, and less secretion of follistatin. The contraction was in part mediated via the TGF‐β pathway, as both inhibition of the ALK4/5/7 receptors and the addition of recombinant follistatin resulted in decreased matrix contraction (75 ± 11% and 24 ± 8%, respectively). In conclusion, our study shows that EC may play a critical role in fibrotic events, as seen in hypertrophic scars, by stimulating ASC‐mediated matrix contraction via regulation of fibrosis‐related proteins.
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