Systemic sclerosis (SSc) is often complicated by severe skin ulcers that are unresponsive to traditional treatments. Vascular alterations are responsible for the ischaemic features of the disease in both the skin and visceral organs. Defective neoangiogenesis correlates with an abnormally reduced quantity of circulating endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) caused by impaired maturation potential and proliferative capacity of bone-marrow endothelial stem cells. We report a patient with nonhealing cutaneous ulcers successfully treated with recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEPO). The possible biological effects of this drug were also investigated. Before rHuEPO treatment, the bone-marrow sample contained reduced numbers of EPCs, which were functionally impaired. After a 6-month rHuEPO cycle, a marked increase in endothelial progenitor markers was seen, along with a significant reduction in their apoptotic rates. The clinical and laboratory data variations before and after rHuEPO treatment give new insights into the pathogenetic role of impaired endothelial stem-cell maturation and defective neoangiogenesis in patients with SSc.
ASJC Scopus subject areas