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Oral submucous fibrosis: review on aetiology and pathogenesis.

Oral Oncology 2006 July
Data from recent epidemiological studies provide overwhelming evidence that areca nut is the main aetiological factor for OSF. A clear dose-dependent relationship was observed for both frequency and duration of chewing areca nut (without tobacco) in the development of OSF. Commercially freeze dried products such as pan masala, Guthka and mawa (areca and lime) have high concentrates of areca nut per chew and appear to cause OSF more rapidly than by self prepared conventional betel quid that contain smaller amounts of areca nut. It is logical to hypothesise that the increased collagen synthesis or reduced collagen degradation as possible mechanisms in the development of the disease. There are numerous biological pathways involved in the above processes and, it is likely that the normal regulatory mechanisms are either down regulated or up regulated at different stages of the disease. Among the chemical constituents, alkaloids from areca nut are the most important biologically whilst tannin may have a synergistic role. These chemicals appear to interfere with the molecular processes of deposition and/or degradation of extracellular matrix molecules such as collagen. In vitro studies on human fibroblasts using areca extracts or chemically purified arecoline support the theory of fibroblastic proliferation and increased collagen formation that is also demonstrable histologically in human OSF tissues. The copper content of areca nut is high and the possible role of copper as a mediator of fibrosis is supported by the demonstration of up regulation of lysyl oxidase in OSF biopsies. It has been postulated that areca nut may also induce the development of the disease by increased levels of cytokines in the lamina propria. Increased and continuous deposition of extracellular matrix may take place as a result of disruption of the equilibrium between matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and tissue inhibitors of matrix metalloproteinases (TIMP). Current evidence implicates collagen-related genes in the susceptibility and pathogenesis of OSF. The individual mechanisms operating at various stages of the disease-initial, intermediate and advanced-need further study in order to propose appropriate therapeutic interventions.

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