Regional implantation of autologous adipose tissue-derived cells induces a prompt healing of long-lasting indolent digital ulcers in patients with systemic sclerosis

Nicoletta Del Papa, Gabriele Di Luca, Domenico Sambataro, Eleonora Zaccara, Wanda Maglione, Armando Gabrielli, Paolo Fraticelli, Gianluca Moroncini, Lorenzo Beretta, Alessandro Santaniello, Gianluca Sambataro, Roberto Ferraresi, Claudio Vitali

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Digital ulcers (DUs) are a rather frequent and invalidating complication in systemic sclerosis (SSc), often showing a very slow or null tendency to heal, in spite of the commonly used systemic and local therapeutic procedures. Recently, stem cell therapy has emerged as a new approach to accelerate wound healing. In the present study, we have tentatively treated long-lasting and poorly responsive to traditional therapy SSc-related DUs by implantation of autologous adipose tissue-derived cell (ATDC) fractions. Fifteen patients with SSc having a long-lasting DU in only one fingertip who were unresponsive to intensive systemic and local treatment were enrolled in the study. The grafting procedure consisted of the injection, at the basis of the corresponding finger, of 0.5–1 ml of autologous ATDC fractions, separated by centrifugation of adipose tissue collected through liposuction from subcutaneous abdominal fat. Time to heal after the procedure was the primary end point of the study, while reduction of pain intensity and of analgesic consumption represented a secondary end point. Furthermore, the posttherapy variation of the number of capillaries, observed in the nailfold video capillaroscopy (NVC) exam and of the resistivity in the digit arteries, measured by high-resolution echocolor-Doppler, were also taken into account. A rather fast healing of the DUs was reached in all of the enrolled patients (mean time to healing 4.23 weeks; range 2–7 weeks). A significant reduction of pain intensity was observed after a few weeks (p <0.001), while the number of capillaries was significantly increased at 3- and 6-month NVC assessment (p <0.0001 in both cases). Finally, a significant after-treatment reduction of digit artery resistivity was also recorded (p <0.0001). Even with the limitations related to the small number of patients included and to the open-label design of the study, the observed strongly favorable outcome suggests that local grafting with ATDCs could represent a promising option for the treatment of SSc-related DUs unresponsive to more consolidated therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2297-2305
Number of pages9
JournalCell Transplantation
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Adipose tissue
  • Autologous graft
  • Stem cells
  • Systemic sclerosis
  • Ulcers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology
  • Transplantation
  • Biomedical Engineering


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