MRL/lpr mice spontaneously develop high titers of anti-dsDNA antibodies and symptoms such as glomerular nephritis and organ weight gain. They also develop spontaneous skin inflammation similar to the cutaneous
lesions common in human lupus erythematosus. This study aimed to compare the effects of long-term serial administration of human adipose tissue-derived mesenchymal stem cells (ASCs), CTLA4Ig-overexpressing
ASCs, and cyclophosphamide treatment in MRL/lpr mice. MRL/lpr mice were divided into saline (C), cyclophosphamide (Y), ASC early (E), ASC late (L), and CTLA4Ig-overexpressing ASC (CT) treatment groups.
Background-matched control MRL/MPJ mice treated with saline (N) were also compared. The treatment period was 5–23 weeks, except for the L group (15–23 weeks). Blood and tissue samples were collected when the mice were 24 weeks old. Organ weight, anti-dsDNA antibodies, urine protein, skin and kidney histologic abnormalities, and trabecular bone volume were evaluated. The Y group showed the greatest decrease in anti-dsDNA antibodies, organ weight, degree of kidney inflammation and glomerular infiltration of C3, and incidence rate of severe proteinuria; the E, L, and CT treatment groups showed better results than the C group. ASC transplantation reduced anti-dsDNA antibody levels significantly. Mice treated with ASCs or CTLA4Ig-ASCs starting from the early disease stage did not show dermatitis upon gross examination; they demonstrated significant improvement in hyperkeratosis, acanthosis, and inflammatory cell infiltration scores in histopathology. Micro-CT analysis revealed that cyclophosphamide treatment significantly decreased bone volume and increased bone spacing in the trabecular bone. Thus, we found that ASC and CTLA4-ASC treatments prevent lupus dermatitis development in MRL/lpr mice without adverse effects