We treated 18 patients with chronic hepatitis C by recombinant interferon-α (6 MIU for 24 weeks). In seven patients, serum aminotransferase levels declined to normal (responders). To evaluate the effect of interferon on matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and their inhibitors, namely tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases (TIMPs), the serum levels of these enzymes were determined by enzyme immunoassay (EIA) using a specific monoclonal antibody. In responders, there was a tendency, but not a significant one, towards either an increase in serum MMP 1 levels or a decrease in serum TIMP 1 levels. In contrast, in nonresponders, both a significant decrease in MMP 1 and MMP 3 and a significant increase in TIMP 1 were observed. The number of cases of either increase in serum MMP levels or decrease in serum TIMP levels was significantly larger in responders than in nonresponders. Furthermore, the ratio of MMP 1 to TIMP 1 significantly increased in responders, suggesting that the balance between matrix formation and degradation in hepatic fibrosis tended to move toward degradation. These data indicate that interferon may exert a beneficial effect on hepatic fibrosis in parallel with improvement of aminotransferase activity.
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