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Rheumatol Int. 2012 Sep;32(9):2653-60. doi: 10.1007/s00296-011-2056-y. Epub 2011 Jul 26.

Th17 peripheral cells are increased in diffuse cutaneous systemic sclerosis compared with limited illness: a cross-sectional study.

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Department of Immunology and Rheumatology, Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Médicas y Nutrición Salvador Zubirán, Vasco de Quiroga 15, Col. Sección XVI, CP 14000 Mexico City, Mexico.


Systemic Sclerosis (SSc) is an autoimmune disease characterized by fibrosis and vasculopathy. A key feature is the presence of T cells in inflammatory lesions. To establish the differences in peripheral blood T helper (Th) subpopulations in diffuse cutaneous (dc) and limited cutaneous (lc) SSc patients, blood samples from 57 dcSSc and 78 lcSSc patients were obtained. Controls were collected from healthy volunteers (n = 16), active systemic lupus erythematosus (aSLE) patients (n = 13), and active rheumatoid arthritis (aRA) patients (n = 12). Mononuclear cells were analyzed by flow cytometry to determine Th1 (CD4+/IFN-γ+), Th2 (CD4+/IL-4+), Th17 (CD4+/IL-17+), and regulatory T cells (Tregs; CD4+/CD25+/Foxp3+) subsets. Th17 and Th1 subsets were increased in SSc groups versus healthy controls (P < 0.001) and aSLE patients (P < 0.001 for Th17 and P < 0.008 for Th1). Th2 cells were higher in dcSSc patients than in the healthy and aSLE groups (P = 0.03 and P = 0.009, respectively). Tregs were increased in the aRA group when compared with SSc patients and healthy controls (P ≤ 0.003). Patients with immunosuppressive treatment had lower numbers of Th17 and Th2 cells (P = 0.02). Our results shed further light into the preponderant role of Th17 and Th1 in patients with SSc. However, these findings certainly deserve to be studied in depth.

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