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Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2004 Apr;36(4):598-606.

Circulating fibrocytes: collagen-secreting cells of the peripheral blood.

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Department of Medicine and Dermatology, Section of Rheumatology, Yale University School of Medicine, P.O. Box 208031, 300 Cedar Street, TAC S525, New Haven, CT 06520-8031, USA.


Since the original description of circulating fibrocytes in 1994, our knowledge of this unique cell population has grown steadily. While initially described in the context of wound repair, fibrocytes have since been found to participate in granuloma formation, antigen presentation, and various fibrosing disorders. Fibrocytes produce matrix proteins such as vimentin, collagens I and III, and they participate in the remodeling response by secreting matrix metalloproteinases. Fibrocytes also are a rich source of inflammatory cytokines, growth factors, and chemokines that provide important intercellular signals within the context of the local tissue environment. Moreover, fibrocytes express the immunological markers typical of an antigen-presenting cell, and they are fully functional for the presentation of antigen to naïve T cells. Fibrocytes can further differentiate, and they may represent a systemic source of the contractile myofibroblast that appears in many fibrotic lesions. Clinically, there is evidence that patients with hypertrophic scars such as keloids, and those affected by scleroderma and other fibrosing disorders have fibrocytes in their lesions. Recently, a new disease entity called nephrogenic fibrosing dermopathy (NFD) has been described, and the fibrocyte may play an important etiopathogenic role in disease development. Nephrogenic fibrosing dermopathy occurs in patients with renal insufficiency and leads to thickening and hardening of the skin, especially of the extremities. Ongoing research is focusing on the molecular signals that influence fibrocyte migration, proliferation, and function in the context of normal physiology and pathology.

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