Fibrotic diseases, such as Dupuytren’s contracture (DC), involve excess scar tissue formation. The differentiation of fibroblasts into myofibroblasts is a significant mechanism in DC, as it generates tissue contraction in areas without wound openings, leading to the deposition of scar tissue, and eventually flexing one or more fingers in a restrictive fashion. Additionally, DC has a high recurrence rate. Previously, we showed that N
-dihydrogalactochitosan (GC), an immunostimulant, inhibited myofibroblast differentiation in a DC fibroblast culture. Our goal of this study was to expand our previous study to include other DC and normal cell lines and other chitosan derivatives (GC and single-walled carbon nanotube-conjugated GC) to determine the specific mechanism of inhibition. Derivative-incorporated and vehicle control (water) anchored fibroblast-populated collagen matrices (aFPCM) were used to monitor compaction (anchored matrix height reduction) using microscopy and optical coherence tomography (OCT) for six days. Fibroblasts were unable to compact chitosan derivative aFPCM to the same extent as vehicle control aFPCM in repeated experiments. Similarly, chitosan derivative aFPCM contracted less than control aFPCM when released from anchorage. Proliferative myofibroblasts were identified by the presence of alpha smooth muscle actin via myofibroblast proliferative assay. In all tested conditions, a small percentage of myofibroblasts and proliferative cells were present. However, when aFPCM were treated with transforming growth factor-beta 1 (TGF-β1), all tested samples demonstrated increased myofibroblasts, proliferation, compaction, and contraction. Although compaction and contraction were reduced, there was sufficient tension present in the chitosan derivative aFPCM to allow exogenous stimulation of the myofibroblast phenotype.
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