Searching for effective Smad3 gene-based gene therapies for hepatic fibrosis, we constructed siRNA expression plasmids targeting the rat Smad3 gene and then delivered these plasmids into hepatic stellate cells (HSCs). The effect of siRNAs on the mRNA levels of Smad2, Smad3, Smad4, and collagens I-α1, III-α1 and IV-α1 (Colα1, Col3α1, Col4α1, respectively) was determined by RT-PCR. Eighty adult male Sprague-Dawley rats were randomly divided into three groups. Twice a week for 8 weeks, the untreated hepatic fibrosis model (N = 30) and the treated group (N = 20) were injected subcutaneously with 40% (v/v) carbon tetrachloride (CCl4)-olive oil (3 mL/kg), and the normal control group (N = 30) was injected with olive oil (3 mL/kg). In the 4th week, the treated rats were injected subcutaneously with liposome-encapsulated plasmids (150 µg/kg) into the right liver lobe under general anesthesia once every 2 weeks, and the untreated rats were injected with the same volume of buffer. At the end of the 6th and 8th weeks, liver tissue and sera were collected. Pathological changes were assessed by a semi-quantitative scoring system (SSS), and a radioimmunoassay was used to establish a serum liver fibrosis index (type III procollagen, type IV collagen, laminin, and hyaluronic acid). The mRNA expression levels of the above cited genes were reduced in the HSCs transfected with the siRNA expression plasmids. Moreover, in the treated group, fibrosis evaluated by the SSS was significantly reduced (P < 0.05) and the serum indices were greatly improved (P < 0.01). These results suggest that Smad3 siRNA expression plasmids have an anti-fibrotic effect
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