In vitro evaluation of anti-fibrotic effects of select cytokines for vocal fold scar treatment

Hongyu Chen, Josh Erndt-Marino, Patricia Diaz-Rodriguez, Jonathan Kulwatno, Andrea C. Jimenez-Vergara, Susan L. Thibeault, Mariah S. Hahn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Scarring of the vocal fold lamina propria (LP) can cause considerable voice disorders due to reduced pliability in scar tissue, attributed in part to abnormal extracellular matrix (ECM) deposition produced by the fibrotic vocal fold fibroblast (fVFF). Cytokines with anti-fibrotic potential have been investigated to limit abnormal LP ECM, but are limited by the need for repeat injections. Moreover, the potentially significant role played by activated macrophages (AMOs) is usually not considered even though the interaction between AMO and fibrotic fibroblasts is known to regulate scar formation across different tissues. AMO are also regulated by cytokines that are used for LP scar removal, but little is known about AMO behaviors in response to these cytokines within the context of LP scar. In the present study, we evaluated anti-fibrotic effects of hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), interleukin-10 (IL-10) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) in a 3D, in vitro fVFF-AMO co-culture system using poly(ethylene glycol) diacrylate (PEGDA) hydrogels. Data from all cytokines was synthesized into a heat-map that enabled assessment of specific associations between AMO and fVFF phenotypes. Cumulatively, our results indicated that both HGF and IL-10 are potentially anti-fibrotic (reduction in fibrotic markers and enhancement in normal, anti-fibrotic VFF markers), while IL-6 displays more complex, marker specific effects. Possible associations between AMO and fVFF phenotypes were found and may highlight a potential desirable macrophage phenotype. These data support the therapeutic potential of HGF and IL-10 for LP scar treatment, and shed light on future strategies aimed at targeting specific AMO phenotypes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1056-1067
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Biomedical Materials Research - Part B Applied Biomaterials
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • 3D cell culture
  • cytokine treatment
  • fibroblasts
  • macrophages
  • vocal fold scar


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