The molecular mechanisms of extracellular matrix-derived hydrogel therapy in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis models

Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis (IPF) is a progressively debilitating lung condition characterized by oxidative stress, cell phenotype shifts, and excessive extracellular matrix (ECM) deposition. Recent studies have shown promising results using decellularized ECM-derived hydrogels produced through pepsin digestion in various lung injury models and even a human clinical trial for myocardial infarction. This study aimed to characterize the composition of ECM-derived hydrogels, assess their potential to prevent fibrosis in bleomycin-induced IPF models, and unravel their underlying molecular mechanisms of action. Porcine lungs were decellularized and pepsin-digested for 48 h. The hydrogel production process, including visualization of protein molecular weight distribution and hydrogel gelation, was characterized. Peptidomics analysis of ECM-derived hydrogel contained peptides from 224 proteins. Probable bioactive and cell-penetrating peptides, including collagen IV, laminin beta 2, and actin alpha 1, were identified. ECM-derived hydrogel treatment was administered as an early intervention to prevent fibrosis advancement in rat models of bleomycin-induced pulmonary fibrosis. ECM-derived hydrogel concentrations of 1 mg/mL and 2 mg/mL showed subtle but noticeable effects on reducing lung inflammation, oxidative damage, and protein markers related to fibrosis (e.g., alpha-smooth muscle actin, collagen I). Moreover, distinct changes were observed in macroscopic appearance, alveolar structure, collagen deposition, and protein expression between lungs that received ECM-derived hydrogel and control fibrotic lungs. Proteomic analyses revealed significant protein and gene expression changes related to cellular processes, pathways, and components involved in tissue remodeling, inflammation, and cytoskeleton regulation. RNA sequencing highlighted differentially expressed genes associated with various cellular processes, such as tissue remodeling, hormone secretion, cell chemotaxis, and cytoskeleton engagement. This study suggests that ECM-derived hydrogel treatment influence pathways associated with tissue repair, inflammation regulation, cytoskeleton reorganization, and cellular response to injury, potentially offering therapeutic benefits in preventing or mitigating lung fibrosis.
Evangelista-Leite D, Carreira AC.O., Nishiyama Junior MY, Gilpin SE., Miglino MA.. The molecular mechanisms of extracellular matrix-derived hydrogel therapy in idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis models. Biomaterials. 2023 Nov; 302:122338
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