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Menacher, Georg, Steinritz, Dirk, Schmidt, Annette, Popp, Tanja, Worek, Franz, Gudermann, Thomas, Thiermann, Horst and Balszuweit, Frank (2018): Effects of anti-inflammatory compounds on sulfur mustard injured cells: Recommendations and caveats suggested by in vitro cell culture models. In: Toxicology Letters, Vol. 293: pp. 91-97

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Sulfur mustard (SM) is a vesicant agent who had its first military use 100 years ago, in Ypres. Since then it has been used in several conflicts like the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s. The use of SM in Syria 2015 indicated the still existing threat. Despite decades of research no causal antidote against SM intoxication is available, so far. A SM intoxication is accompanied by necrosis, apoptosis and inflammation. To counteract the SM-induced inflammation, glucocorticoids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory compounds (NSAIDs) are recommended. Aim of this study was to evaluate the efficacy of the anti-inflammatory compounds dexamethasone, ibuprofen and diclofenac in vitro. For that purpose, two different cell culture models were used. Firstly, a monoculture of keratinocytes (HaCaT) and secondly, an established co-culture of keratinocytes (HaCaT) and immunocompetent cells (THP-1) to identify the role of immune cells in the process and to mimic the dermal physiology more closely. Both models were challenged with different SM concentrations (100, 200 and 300 mu M) and treated with different anti-inflammatory compounds one hour after the SM exposure. Analytical analysis of necrosis (ToxiLight), apoptosis (CDDE) and inflammation (IL-6 and - 8 ELISAs) followed 24 h thereafter. Dexamethasone provided small but consistent protective effects in the monoculture. For the reduction of apoptosis, 3 mu M dexamethasone was sufficient. The most effective reduction regarding interleukin (IL) production was found with 6 mu M dexamethasone. Protective effects were less pronounced in co-culture, which implies, that the protective effects of dexamethasone are rather generic and not due to a modulation of the immune cells. Against our expectations, ibuprofen strongly amplified apoptosis and necrosis in SM exposed cells in the monoculture as well as the co-culture. Therefore, use of ibuprofen for treatment of SM intoxication should at least be considered most critically, if not even regarded as harmful. Diclofenac significantly reduced necrosis, apoptosis and inflammation in the co-culture in a dose-dependent manner. The greatest benefit regarding cell survival and reduction of the inflammation-marker IL-6 after a SM treatment was observed after diclofenac treatment. The protective effects of diclofenac were less pronounced in the monoculture which suggests, that diclofenac can modify the response of immune cells to SM. In conclusion, the results of our experiments, showing a benefit for diclofenac after SM exposure are in line with in vivo data of other researchers. Though, our in vitro results suggest the preferred use of diclofenac over ibuprofen. The benefit of dexamethasone is still equivocal, but low concentrations seem to have some positive effects.

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