Summary Background Keloid disease (KD) is a common fibroproliferative disorder of unknown aetiology. T cells and macrophages are increased in KD and are thought to contribute to its pathogenesis. However, while a link between inflammation and fibrotic disorders is well known for other disorders, it remains undetermined in KD.
Objectives Systematically to immunophenotype the inflammatory infiltrate of KD in situ in a site-specific manner, and to compare this with normal skin and scar tissue.
Methods Sixty-eight keloid cases were screened for the presence of all three (intralesional, perilesional and extralesional) keloid-associated specific tissue sites. Subsequently, a complete set of 25 keloid biopsies (from different patients) was compared with normal skin (n = 11) and normal scar (n = 11) samples and subjected to systematic, site-specific quantitative immunohistomorphometry and histochemistry, using a range of immunological markers of B cells, T cells, macrophages, mast cells (MCs) and Langerhans cells.
Results T cells, B cells, degranulated and mature MCs (coexpressing OX40 ligand) and alternative macrophages (M2) were all significantly increased in intralesional and perilesional KD sites compared with normal skin and scar tissue (P < 0·05). Additionally, 10 of 68 KD cases (15%) showed the presence of distinctive lymphoid aggregates, which resembled mucosa-associated lymphoid tissue (MALT).
Conclusions The increased number and activity of MCs and M2 may implicate inflammation in the fibrotic process in KD. The distinct KD-associated lymphoid aggregate resembles MALT, for which we propose the term ‘keloid-associated lymphoid tissue’ (KALT). It may perpetuate inflammatory stimuli that promote KD growth. KALT, MCs and M2 are promising novel targets for future KD therapy.