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DMSO represses inflammatory cytokine production from human blood cells and reduces autoimmune arthritis

Posted April 4, 2016 | Publications

Elisia I, Nakamura H, Lam V, Hofs E, Cederberg R, Cait J, Hughes MR, Lee L, Jia W, Adomat HH, Guns ES, McNagny KM, Samudio I & Krystal G. DMSO represses inflammatory cytokine production from human blood cells and reduces autoimmune arthritis.  PLoS One 11: e0152538 2016.


Dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) is currently used as an alternative treatment for various inflammatory conditions as well as for cancer. Despite its widespread use, there is a paucity of data regarding its safety and efficacy as well as its mechanism of action in human cells. Herein, we demonstrate that DMSO has ex-vivo anti-inflammatory activity using Escherichia coli- (E. coli) and herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1)-stimulated whole human blood. Specifically, we found that between 0.5%- 2%, DMSO significantly suppressed the expression of many pro-inflammatory cytokines/chemokines and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2). However, a significant reduction in monocyte viability was also observed at 2% DMSO, suggesting a narrow window of efficacy. Anti-inflammatory concentrations of DMSO suppressed E. coli-induced ERK1/2, p38, JNK and Akt phosphorylation, suggesting DMSO acts on these signaling pathways to suppress inflammatory cytokine/chemokine production. Although DMSO induces the differentiation of B16/F10 melanoma cells in vitro, topical administration of DMSO to mice subcutaneously implanted with B16 melanoma cells was ineffective at reducing tumor growth, DMSO was also found to block mouse macrophages from polarizing to either an M1- or an M2-phenotype, which may contribute to its inability to slow tumor growth. Topical administration of DMSO, however, significantly mitigated K/BxN serum-induced arthritis in mice, and this was associated with reduced levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines in the joints and white blood cell levels in the blood. Thus, while we cannot confirm the efficacy of DMSO as an anti-cancer agent, the use of DMSO in arthritis warrants further investigation to ascertain its therapeutic potential.

PMID: 27031833