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Effects of Gadolinium-Based Magnetic Resonance Imaging Contrast Agents on Human Skin in Organ Culture and Human Skin Fibroblasts

Varani, James PhD*; DaSilva, Marissa BS*; Warner, Roscoe L. PhD*; Deming, Monica O'Brien*; Barron, Adam G. BS*; Johnson, Kent J. MD*; Swartz, Richard D. MD

doi: 10.1097/RLI.0b013e31818f76b5
Original Article

Objective: Nephrogenic systemic fibrosis (NSF) is a clinical syndrome linked with exposure in renal failure patients to gadolinium-based magnetic resonance imaging contrast agents (GBCAs). The pathogenesis of the disease is largely unknown. The present study addresses potential pathophysiological mechanisms.

Materials and Methods: Here, we have examined human skin in organ culture and human dermal fibroblasts in monolayer culture for responses to GBCA stimulation.

Results: Treatment of normal human skin in organ culture with Omniscan had no significant effect on type I procollagen but increased both matrix metalloproteinase-1 and tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases-1. At the histologic level, many interstitial cells demonstrated cytologic features characteristic of activation (ie, light staining, oblong, plump nuclei). Omniscan, as well as 3 other magnetic resonance imaging contrast agents (Magnevist, Multihance, and Prohance), increased proliferation of human dermal fibroblasts in monolayer culture. Increased proliferation was accompanied by an increase in production of both matrix metalloproteinase-1 and tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases-1 but no increase in type I procollagen. Concentrations required for effects differed among the 4 agents (Omniscan < Magnevist and Multihance < Prohance). In contrast to its effects on fibroblast function, Omniscan did not stimulate human epidermal keratinocyte proliferation when examined over a wide range of concentrations.

Conclusion: These data provide evidence that GBCA exposure in ex vivo skin from healthy individuals increases fibroblast proliferation and has effects on the enzyme/inhibitor system that regulates collagen turnover in the skin.

From the Departments of *Pathology, and †Internal Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Received July 28, 2008; accepted September 26, 2008.

Supported partly by grants GM 77724 and GM 80779 from the National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD.

Reprints: James Varani, PhD, Department of Pathology, The University of Michigan, 1301 Catherine Street, SPC 5602, Ann Arbor, MI 48109. E-mail:

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.