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Vasiliki Liakouli - Top 30 Publications

Macrophage activation syndrome in Still's disease: analysis of clinical characteristics and survival in paediatric and adult patients.

Macrophage activation syndrome (MAS) is a reactive form of hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, complicating Still's disease, both in paediatric and adult patients. In this work, we aimed to investigate clinical picture and outcome of Still's disease patients developing MAS. We performed a retrospective analysis of patients, both paediatrics and adults, affected by Still's disease attending our department. During the follow-up, each patient was investigated for MAS occurrence and possible predictors, clinical and laboratory factors, were analysed. We evaluated 50 patients affected by Still's disease, 21 paediatric and 29 adult patients. Ten patients experienced MAS (five adult and five paediatric patients) and its development significantly reduced the survival rate when compared with patients without this complication (p < 0.0001). The analysis of possible predictors showed that high-value systemic score (p = 0.03) and high levels of serum ferritin (p = 0.002) were independently associated with an increased likelihood of MAS. MAS occurrence significantly reduced survival rate in both paediatric and adult patients affected by Still's disease. The high levels of serum ferritin and an elevated systemic score, at the time of diagnosis, were significantly associated with MAS.

Prevalence of type 2 diabetes and impaired fasting glucose in patients affected by rheumatoid arthritis: Results from a cross-sectional study.

Although the better management of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) has significantly improved the long-term outcome of affected patients, a significant proportion of these may develop associated comorbidities including cardiometabolic complications. However, it must be pointed out that a comprehensive cardiometabolic evaluation is still poorly integrated into the management of RA patients, due to a limited awareness of the problem, a lack of appropriate clinical studies, and optimal strategies for cardiovascular (CV) risk reduction in RA. In addition, although several studies investigated the possible association between traditional CV risk factors and RA, conflicting results are still available.On this basis, we planned this cross-sectional study, aimed at investigating the prevalence of type 2 diabetes (T2D) and impaired fasting glucose (IFG) in RA patients compared with age- and gender- matched control individuals. Furthermore, we analyzed the role of both traditional and RA-related CV risk factors in predicting T2D and IFG.We observed an increased prevalence of T2D in RA patients when compared with age- and gender-matched controls. Regression analyses demonstrated that the presence of high blood pressure (HBP), a longer disease duration, and exposure to corticosteroids (CCS) were significantly associated with an increased likelihood of being classified as T2D. In addition, we observed an increased prevalence of IFG in RA patients when compared with age- and gender-matched controls. Regression analyses demonstrated that a higher body mass index (BMI), the presence of metabolic syndrome (MetS), higher levels of total cholesterol, the presence of radiographic damage, and higher serum levels of C-reactive protein (CRP) were significantly associated with an increased likelihood of presenting IFG.In this cross-sectional study, we observed an increased prevalence of T2D and IFG in an Italian cohort of RA patients when compared with age- and gender-matched control individuals. Interestingly, both RA-specific features, such as disease duration, CCS exposure, and radiographic damage, and traditional CV risk factors, such as HBP and MetS, were significantly associated with glucose metabolism abnormalities.

International consensus: What else can we do to improve diagnosis and therapeutic strategies in patients affected by autoimmune rheumatic diseases (rheumatoid arthritis, spondyloarthritides, systemic sclerosis, systemic lupus erythematosus, antiphospholipid syndrome and Sjogren's syndrome)?: The unmet needs and the clinical grey zone in autoimmune disease management.

Autoimmune diseases are a complex set of diseases characterized by immune system activation and, although many progresses have been done in the last 15years, several unmet needs in the management of these patients may be still identified. Recently, a panel of international Experts, divided in different working groups according to their clinical and scientific expertise, were asked to identify, debate and formulate a list of key unmet needs within the field of rheumatology, serving as a roadmap for research as well as support for clinicians. After a systematic review of the literature, the results and the discussions from each working group were summarised in different statements. Due to the differences among the diseases and their heterogeneity, a large number of statements was produced and voted by the Experts to reach a consensus in a plenary session. At all the steps of this process, including the initial discussions by the steering committee, the identification of the unmet needs, the expansion of the working group and finally the development of statements, a large agreement was attained. This work confirmed that several unmet needs may be identified and despite the development of new therapeutic strategies as well as a better understanding of the effects of existing therapies, many open questions still remain in this field, suggesting a research agenda for the future and specific clinical suggestions which may allow physicians to better manage those clinical conditions still lacking of scientific clarity.

Poor clinical response in rheumatoid arthritis is the main risk factor for diabetes development in the short-term: A 1-year, single-centre, longitudinal study.

Despite of the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) provided different sets of recommendations for the management of cardiovascular risk in inflammatory arthritis patients, it must be pointed out that cardiometabolic comorbidity, such as type 2 diabetes (T2D), remains still underdiagnosed and undertreated in patients affected by rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Pharmacological stress, rest perfusion and delayed enhancement cardiac magnetic resonance identifies a very early cardiac involvement in systemic sclerosis patients of recent onset.

To evaluate occult cardiac involvement in asymptomatic systemic sclerosis (SSc) patients by pharmacological stress, rest perfusion and delayed enhancement cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR), for a very early identification of patients at higher risk of cardiac-related mortality.

Increased Cardiovascular Events and Subclinical Atherosclerosis in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients: 1 Year Prospective Single Centre Study.

Several studies showed the close relationship between Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) and cerebro-cardiovascular events (CVEs) and subclinical atherosclerosis. In this study, we investigated the occurrence of CVEs and subclinical atherosclerosis during the course of RA and we evaluated the possible role of both traditional cardiovascular (CV) and disease related risk factors to predict the occurrence of new CVEs and the onset of subclinical atherosclerosis.

Interstitial lung disease in systemic sclerosis: current and future treatment.

Systemic sclerosis (SSc) has the highest fatality rate among connective tissue diseases and is characterized by vascular damage, inflammation and fibrosis of the skin and various internal organs. Interstitial lung disease (ILD) frequently complicates SSc and can be a debilitating disorder with a poor prognosis. ILD is the most frequent cause of death in SSc, and the management of SSc-ILD patients is a great challenge. Early detection of pulmonary involvement based on a recent decline of lung function tests and on the extent of lung involvement at high-resolution computed tomography is critical for the best management of these patients. This article summarizes classification, pathogenesis, diagnosis, prognosis, survival and finally current and future treatment options in SSc-ILD.

Adult-onset Still's disease: evaluation of prognostic tools and validation of the systemic score by analysis of 100 cases from three centers.

Adult-onset Still's disease (AOSD) is rare inflammatory disease of unknown etiology that usually affects young adults. The more common clinical manifestations are spiking fevers, arthritis, evanescent rash, elevated liver enzymes, lymphadenopathy, hepatosplenomegaly, and serositis. The multi-visceral involvement of the disease and the different complications, such as macrophage activation syndrome, may strongly decrease the life expectancy of AOSD patients.

Biologic therapies and infections in the daily practice of three Italian rheumatologic units: a prospective, observational study.

Since the introduction of biologics, many concerns about the increased risk of infections have been reported and, to date, the real impact of infections on the daily practice in the rheumatologic centers is still largely unknown. In this work, we evaluated the infection rates associated with the use of biologics in a large cohort of patients. A prospective study, between January 2010 and December 2013, enrolling 731 rheumatic patients, was performed. Demographic and disease characteristics, therapies, comorbidities, and infectious events were recorded and statistically analyzed by multivariate analysis. Two-hundred thirty-five infectious episodes were observed in 28.4 % of patients. About total infections, bacteria were identified in 70.6 % of total cases and viruses in 18.3 %. The most common site of not-serious infection was the urinary tract. Duration of disease, longer follow-up, concomitant steroid therapy, and comorbidities were significantly associated with not-serious infection. In our cohort, 17 episodes fulfilled the criteria of serious infection and occurred in 17 different patients (2.3 %), the majority involving the lower respiratory tract. Serious infections were associated with the beginning of biologics in older age. Our prospective, observational study showed that, in daily practice, a lesser rate of serious as well as not-serious infections may be observed in rheumatic patients treated with biologics than those reported in previous papers. The most common sites of not-serious infections are both the urinary and the respiratory tracts, and for serious infections, the respiratory tract. When pathogens were isolated, we did not find any multidrug-resistant organism.

Prognostic factors of macrophage activation syndrome, at the time of diagnosis, in adult patients affected by autoimmune disease: Analysis of 41 cases collected in 2 rheumatologic centers.

Macrophage activation syndrome (MAS) is a rare, life-threatening disease in which early diagnosis and aggressive therapeutic strategy may improve the outcome. Due to its rarity, epidemiologic data are still lacking. Hyperferritinemia is frequently associated with MAS and might modulate the cytokine storm, which is involved in the development of multiple organ failure. In this paper, we investigated clinical data, treatments, and outcome of a homogeneous cohort of 41 adult MAS patients, complicating autoimmune rheumatic diseases. MAS-related death occurred in 17 patients (42.5%) during the follow-up, and older age and increased serum ferritin levels, at the time of diagnosis, were significantly associated with mortality. In conclusion, adult MAS is associated with high mortality rate. Some clinical features at diagnosis may be predictive of MAS-associated death.

Searching for a good model for systemic sclerosis: the molecular profile and vascular changes occurring in UCD-200 chickens strongly resemble the early phase of human systemic sclerosis.

Vascular injury and endothelial cell (EC) apoptosis are the earliest events in systemic sclerosis (SSc), before the onset of fibrosis, and stromal cell-derived factor 1 (SDF-1), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGFA), endothelin-1 (ET-1) and platelet-derived growth factors (PDGF-BB) represent the key molecules to study the link between vascular injury and fibrosis during SSc. The University of California at Davis line 200 (UCD-200) chickens display the same hallmarks of human SSc: vascular occlusion, perivascular lymphocytic infiltration and fibrosis of skin and internal organs. In this study we assessed both cytokines and growth factors involved in the early phases of the UCD-200 chickens' skin lesions, to determine whether these animals might represent an appropriate experimental model to study the pathogenesis of SSc.

Perivascular Cells in Diffuse Cutaneous Systemic Sclerosis Overexpress Activated ADAM12 and Are Involved in Myofibroblast Transdifferentiation and Development of Fibrosis.

Microvascular damage is pivotal in the pathogenesis of systemic sclerosis (SSc), preceding fibrosis, and whose trigger is not still fully understood. Perivascular progenitor cells, with profibrotic activity and function, are identified by the expression of the isoform 12 of ADAM (ADAM12) and this molecule may be upregulated by transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β). The goal of this work was to evaluate whether pericytes in the skin of patients with diffuse cutaneous SSc (dcSSc) expressed ADAM12, suggesting their potential contribution to the fibrotic process, and whether TGF-β might modulate this molecule.

Mesenchymal Stem Cell Transplantation in Systemic Sclerosis: Comment on the Article by Maria et al.

IL-1β at the crossroad between rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes: may we kill two birds with one stone?

Although in the past the prevention of joint destruction in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) was strongly emphasized, now a great interest is focused on associated comorbidities in these patients. Multiple data suggest that a large percentage of RA patients are affected by Type 2 Diabetes (T2D), whose incidence has reached epidemic levels in recent years, thus increasing the health care costs. A better knowledge about the pathogenesis of these diseases as well as the mechanisms of action of drugs may allow both policy designers and physicians to choose the most effective treatments, thus lowering the costs. This review will focus on the role of Interleukin (IL)-1β in the pathogenesis of both the diseases, the efficacy of IL-1 blocking molecules in controlling these diseases, and will provide information suggesting that targeting IL-1β, in patients affected by both RA and T2D, may be a promising therapeutic choice.

Safety and efficacy of intra-articular anti-tumor necrosis factor α agents compared to corticosteroids in a treat-to-target strategy in patients with inflammatory arthritis and monoarthritis flare.

The aim of this study was to assess safety and efficacy of ultrasonography (US)-guided intra-articular injections using tumor necrosis factor (TNF) blockers compared to corticosteroids in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or psoriatic arthritis (PsA) patients, experiencing refractory monoarthritis despite the current systemic therapy. Eighty-two patients were randomized to receive three intra-articular injections monthly of either corticosteroid or TNF blockers. Primary endpoints were the safety and an improvement greater than 20% for visual analogic scales of involved joint pain in patients injected with anti-TNFα. Further clinical, US, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) evaluations were considered secondary endpoints. Intra-articular TNF blockers are a safe strategy, determining a significant reduction of patient and physician reported clinical outcomes and US/MRI scores, in RA and PsA patients, when compared to intra-articular injections of corticosteroids. US guidance excluded the possibility to inject the drug in the wrong site, maximizing local effects, reducing systemic effects, and increasing the safety of the procedure. Patients with inflammatory monoarthritis could be successfully treated with US-guided intra-articular TNF blockers that are a safe and well tolerated procedure, to achieve a longstanding clinical and radiological good clinical response and/or disease remission.

Macitentan inhibits the transforming growth factor-β profibrotic action, blocking the signaling mediated by the ETR/TβRI complex in systemic sclerosis dermal fibroblasts.

Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is a complex and not fully understood autoimmune disease associated with fibrosis of multiple organs. The main effector cells, the myofibroblasts, are collagen-producing cells derived from the activation of resting fibroblasts. This process is regulated by a complex repertoire of profibrotic cytokines, and among them transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) and endothelin-1 (ET-1) play a major role. In this paper we show that TGF-β and ET-1 receptors co-operate in myofibroblast activation, and macitentan, an ET-1 receptor antagonist binding ET-1 receptors, might interfere with both TGF-β and ET-1 pathways, preventing myofibroblast differentiation.

The Endothelial-mesenchymal Transition in Systemic Sclerosis Is Induced by Endothelin-1 and Transforming Growth Factor-β and May Be Blocked by Macitentan, a Dual Endothelin-1 Receptor Antagonist.

High endothelin-1 (ET-1) and transforming growth factor-β (TGF-β) levels may induce in healthy endothelial cells (EC) an endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EndMT). The same cytokines are associated with fibrosis development in systemic sclerosis (SSc). Although EndMT has not been definitively shown in SSc, this process, potentially induced by a stimulatory loop involving these 2 cytokines, overexpressed in this disease might contribute to fibroblast accumulation in affected tissues. Macitentan (MAC), an ET-1 receptor antagonist interfering with this loop, might prevent EndMT and fibroblast accumulation.

Efficacy of inhibition of IL-1 in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and type 2 diabetes mellitus: two case reports and review of the literature.

Rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune arthritis in which two inflammatory cytokines, tumor necrosis factor-α and interleukin-1β, play a critical role in the induction and progression of the disease. Several reports and data from registries have discussed the association between chronic inflammatory diseases and disorders in intermediary metabolism, pointing out that prevalence of peripheral insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes mellitus is increased among patients with rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, several studies have shown that type 2 diabetes mellitus may be considered an interleukin-1β inflammatory-mediated process, and both preclinical and clinical observations have reported the usefulness of interleukin-1 antagonism therapy in this disease.

The role of IL-1β in the bone loss during rheumatic diseases.

Several inflammatory diseases have been associated with increased bone resorption and fracture rates and different studies supported the relation between inflammatory cytokines and osteoclast activity. The main factor required for osteoclast activation is the stimulation by receptor activator of nuclear factor kappa-B ligand (RANKL) expressed on osteoblasts. In this context, interleukin- (IL-) 1β, one of the most powerful proinflammatory cytokines, is a strong stimulator of in vitro and in vivo bone resorption via upregulation of RANKL that stimulates the osteoclastogenesis. The resulting effects lead to an imbalance in bone metabolism favouring bone resorption and osteoporosis. In this paper, we review the available literature on the role of IL-1β in the pathogenesis of bone loss. Furthermore, we analysed the role of IL-1β in bone resorption during rheumatic diseases and, when available, we reported the efficacy of anti-IL-1β therapy in this field.

Mesenchymal stromal cells and rheumatic diseases: new tools from pathogenesis to regenerative therapies.

In recent years, mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) have been largely investigated and tested as a new therapeutic tool for several clinical applications, including the treatment of different rheumatic diseases. MSCs are responsible for the normal turnover and maintenance of adult mesenchymal tissues as the result of their multipotent differentiation abilities and their secretion of a variety of cytokines and growth factors. Although initially derived from bone marrow, MSCs are present in many different tissues such as many peri-articular tissues. MSCs may exert immune-modulatory properties, modulating different immune cells in both in vitro and in vivo models, and they are considered immune-privileged cells. At present, these capacities are considered the most intriguing aspect of their biology, introducing the possibility that these cells may be used as effective therapy in autoimmune diseases. Therefore, stem cell therapies may represent an innovative approach for the treatment of rheumatic diseases, especially for the forms that are not responsive to standard treatments or alternatively still lacking a definite therapy. At present, although the data from scientific literature appear to suggest that such treatments might be more effective whether administered as soon as possible, the use of MSCs in clinical practice is likely to be restricted to patients with a long history of a severe refractory disease. Further results from larger clinical trials are needed to corroborate preclinical findings and human non-controlled studies, and advancement in the knowledge of MSCs might provide information about the therapeutic role of these cells in the treatment of many rheumatic diseases.

Increased level of H-ferritin and its imbalance with L-ferritin, in bone marrow and liver of patients with adult onset Still's disease, developing macrophage activation syndrome, correlate with the severity of the disease.

In this paper, we aimed to evaluate the levels of ferritin enriched in H subunits (H-ferritin) and ferritin enriched in L subunits (L-ferritin) and the cells expressing these 2 molecules, in the bone marrow (BM) and liver biopsies obtained from adult onset Still's disease (AOSD) patients who developed macrophage activation syndrome (MAS), and correlating these data with the severity of the disease. Twenty-one patients with MAS-associated AOSD underwent BM biopsy and among them, 9 patients with hepatomegaly and elevated liver enzymes underwent liver biopsy. All the samples were stained by both immunohistochemistry and immunofluorescence. A statistical analysis was performed to estimate the possible correlation among both H-ferritin and L-ferritin tissue expression and the clinical picture of the disease. Furthermore, the same analysis was performed to evaluate the possible correlation among the number of CD68/H-ferritin or CD68/L-ferritin positive cells and the clinical picture. Both immunohistochemical and immunofluorescence analysis demonstrated an increased tissue H-ferritin expression, in the BM and liver samples of our patients. This increased expression correlated with the severity of the disease. An inflammatory infiltrate, enriched in CD68 macrophages, expressing H-ferritin was observed in both the BM and the liver samples of our patients. Furthermore, we observed, that this increased number of CD68/H-ferritin positive cells significantly correlated with the severity of clinical picture and this specific BM infiltrate correlated with the mortality rate, reported in our cohort. Our data showed an imbalance between the levels of H- and L-ferritin in different organs of patients with MAS-associated AOSD and the evidence of a strong infiltrate of CD68/H-ferritin positive cells in the same organs. Furthermore, a strong correlation among both the tissue H-ferritin and the CD68/H-ferritin positive cells and the clinical picture was observed.

Impaired endothelium-mesenchymal stem cells cross-talk in systemic sclerosis: a link between vascular and fibrotic features.

To assess if an impaired cross-talk between endothelial cells (ECs) and perivascular/multipotent mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) might induce a perturbation of vascular repair and leading to a phenotypic switch of MSC toward myofibroblast in Systemic Sclerosis (SSc).

Methotrexate: an old new drug in autoimmune disease.

Methotrexate (MTX) is currently considered, among disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), the 'anchor-drug' in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. In the last 25 years, there has been a marked expansion in the use of MTX in different inflammatory diseases. Its low cost, associated to a good long-term efficacy and safety profile, justifies the use of MTX as a first-line disease-modifying drug or alternatively, a steroid-sparing medication in this field of medicine. Although new emerging options, including biological treatments, are being established in the therapeutic scenario, the good cost/benefit ratio of MTX supports the choice of this drug in combination with these newer therapies, enhancing the efficacy of these combination therapies and decreasing the risk of potential side effects.

Impaired Cav-1 expression in SSc mesenchymal cells upregulates VEGF signaling: a link between vascular involvement and fibrosis.

Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is characterized by vascular alteration and fibrosis, the former probably leading to fibrosis via the ability of both endothelial cells and pericytes to differentiate toward myofibroblast. It is well known that vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A, hereafter referred to as VEGF) may induce a profibrotic phenotype on perivascular cells. Caveolin-1 (Cav-1) is involved in the regulation of VEGF signaling, playing a role in the transport of internalized VEGF receptor 2 (VEGFR2) toward degradation, thus decreasing VEGF signaling. In this work, we assessed the levels of Cav-1 in SSc bone marrow mesenchymal stem cells (SSc-MSCs), a pericyte surrogate, and correlate these results with VEGF signaling, focusing onpotential pathogenic pathways leading to fibrosis.

Methotrexate in rheumatoid arthritis: optimizing therapy among different formulations. Current and emerging paradigms.

Methotrexate (MTX) is currently considered the drug of choice, among the disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis (RA) because of its favorable risk/benefit ratio, good safety profile, and low costs. Despite MTX's widespread use and large experience accumulated over the many years since its introduction into clinical practice, specific guidelines have not been published.

Efficacy and safety of rituximab treatment in early primary Sjögren's syndrome: a prospective, multi-center, follow-up study.

Primary Sjögren's syndrome (pSS) is an autoimmune disorder affecting exocrine glands; however, a subgroup of pSS patients experience systemic extra-glandular involvement leading to a worsening of disease prognosis. Current therapeutic options are mainly empiric and often translated by other autoimmune diseases. In the last few years growing evidence suggests that B-cell depletion by rituximab (RTX) is effective also in pSS. Patients with early active disease appear to be those who could benefit the most from RTX. The aim of this study was to investigate the efficacy and safety of RTX in comparison to disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs) in early active pSS patients.

Tocilizumab for the treatment of adult-onset Still's disease: results from a case series.

Adult-onset Still's disease (AOSD) is a chronic inflammatory disease of unknown etiology which commonly affects young adults. Treatment of AOSD patients includes nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, and DMARDs. Interleukin (IL)-6 blockade is an attractive therapeutic option for AOSD because this cytokine contributes to the pathogenesis of major AOSD symptoms. Tocilizumab (TCZ) is a humanized anti-IL-6 receptor antibody that blocks the effects of IL-6. Preliminary results of TCZ in AOSD have been promising. Here, we reported our experience evaluating both the safety and the efficacy of 12 months therapy with TCZ in 11 patients with AOSD refractory to corticosteroids and MTX therapy, followed for 18 months, including the first 12 months of active treatment and the last 6 months to evaluate the activity of the disease when the treatment was discontinued. The main outcome measures were the European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) improvement criteria and improvement of systemic symptoms at the 3, 6, 12, and 18-months follow-up periods. Our patients rapidly responded and experienced a sustained clinical remission over time during active treatment. Disease Activity Score 28 decreased from 5.62 (3.75-8.28) [median (range)] at baseline to 1.61(0.49-3.5) at month 12. EULAR remission was achieved in 81.82 % at 12 months. Tender joint and swollen joint counts displayed a progressive reduction during active therapy study period. During treatment, we observed a resolution of fever in our AOSD patient. In conclusion, TCZ might represent a suitable option for the therapy of refractory AOSD patients.

Jejunoileal bypass as the main procedure in the onset of immune-related conditions: the model of BADAS.

Bariatric surgery represents a common approach for the control of severe morbid obesity, reducing caloric intake by modifying the anatomy of the gastrointestinal tract. Following jejunoileal bypass, a large spectrum of complications has been described, with rheumatic manifestation present in up to 20% of cases. Although bowel bypass syndrome, also called blind loop syndrome, is a well-recognized complication of jejunoileal bypass, the same syndrome was recognized in patients who had not had intestinal bypass surgery, and the term the 'bowel-associated dermatosis-arthritis syndrome' (BADAS) was coined. The pathogenesis of BADAS is as yet poorly understood and only few data concerning this issue have been published in the literature. The aim of the present paper is to review the literature and to discuss putative pathogenic mechanisms of BADAS, focusing on the immune system.

Virtual skin biopsy by optical coherence tomography: the first quantitative imaging biomarker for scleroderma.

Skin involvement is of major prognostic value in systemic sclerosis (SSc) and often the primary outcome in clinical trials. Nevertheless, an objective, validated biomarker of skin fibrosis is lacking. Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is an imaging technology providing high-contrast images with 4 μm resolution, comparable with microscopy ('virtual biopsy'). The present study evaluated OCT to detect and quantify skin fibrosis in SSc.

Scleroderma Mesenchymal Stem Cells display a different phenotype from healthy controls; implications for regenerative medicine.

Vascular involvement is a key feature of Systemic sclerosis (SSc). Although the pericytes/endothelial cells (ECs) cross-talk regulates vessels formation, no evidences about the pericytes contribution to ineffective angiogenesis in SSc are available. Recent findings showed similarities between pericytes and Bone Marrow Mesenchymal Stem Cells (BM-MSCs). Due to difficulties in pericytes isolation, this work explores the possibility to use BM-MSCs as pericytes surrogate, clarifying their role in supporting neo-angiogenesis during SSc.