Bleomycin induces pleural and subpleural fibrosis in the presence of carbon particles
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The pathological changes in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) typically start in subpleural lung regions, a feature that is currently not explained. IPF, as well as bleomycin-induced lung fibrosis, are more common in smokers. We hypothesised that carbon particles, which are major components of cigarette smoke that are transported to alveoli and pleural surface, might be involved in the development of subpleural fibrosis through interaction with pleural mesothelial cells. Carbon particles were administered to mice in combination with bleomycin through intratracheal and/or intrapleural injection and fibrosis was assessed using histomorphometry. Carbon administered to the chest cavity caused severe pleural fibrosis in the presence of bleomycin, whereas bleomycin alone had no fibrogenic effect. The pleural response was associated with progressive fibrosis in subpleural regions, similar to IPF in humans. Matrix accumulation within this area evolved through mesothelial-fibroblastoid transformation, where mesothelial cells acquire myofibroblast characteristics. In contrast, carbon did not exaggerate bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis after combined intratracheal administration. This represents a novel approach to induce a robust experimental model of pleural fibrosis. It also suggests that carbon particles might be involved as a cofactor in the initiation and/or progression of (subpleural) pulmonary and pleural fibrosis. Mesothelial cells appear to be critical contributors to this fibrotic process.
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