Microvascular injury, oxidative stress, and impaired angiogenesis are prominent features of systemic sclerosis (SSc). We compared serum markers of these phenomena at baseline and after treatment with nifedipine in SSc patients. Forty successive SSc patients were compared with 20 matched healthy subjects. All SSc patients stopped taking calcium-channel blockers 72 hours before measurements. Twenty SSc patients were also examined after 14 days of treatment with nifedipine (60 mg/day). Quantitative ELISA was used to measure the serum concentrations of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), soluble VEGF receptor 1 (sVEGFR-1), soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 (sVCAM-1), carbonyl residues, and advanced oxidation protein products (AOPP). The median concentrations of VEGF, sVEGFR-1, sVCAM-1, carbonyl residues, and AOPP were significantly higher in SSc patients than in healthy subjects at baseline. A correlation was found between VEGF concentration and carbonyl residue concentration (r = 0.43; P = 0.007). Nifedipine treatment led to a significant decrease in concentrations of sVCAM-1, carbonyl residues, and AOPP but did not affect concentrations of VEGF and sVEGFR-1. Nifedipine treatment ameliorated endothelium injury in patients with SSc, as shown by the concentrations of adhesion molecules and oxidative damage markers. The fact that VEGF and sVEGFR-1 concentrations were not changed whereas oxidative stress was ameliorated by nifedipine is consistent with the hypothesis that VEGF signalling is impaired in SSc. However, more experimental evidence is needed to determine whether the VEGF pathway is intrinsically defective in SSc.
Keywords: nifedipine, oxidative stress, sVCAM-1, systemic sclerosis, VEGF