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J Cell Mol Med. 2006 Jan-Mar;10(1):76-99.

Modern pathogenetic concepts of liver fibrosis suggest stellate cells and TGF-beta as major players and therapeutic targets.

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Institute of Clinical Chemistry and Pathobiochemistry, RWTH Aachen University--Hospital, D-52074 Aachen, Germany.


Hepatic fibrosis is a scarring process that is associated with an increased and altered deposition of extracellular matrix in liver. At the cellular and molecular level, this progressive process is mainly characterized by cellular activation of hepatic stellate cells and aberrant activity of transforming growth factor-beta1 and its downstream cellular mediators. Although the cellular responses to this cytokine are complex, the signalling pathways of this pivotal cytokine during the fibrogenic response and its connection to other signal cascades are now understood in some detail. Based on the current advances in understanding the pleiotropic reactions during fibrogenesis, various inhibitors of transforming growth factor-beta were developed and are now being investigated as potential drug candidates in experimental models of hepatic injury. Although it is too early to favour one of these antagonists for the treatment of hepatic fibrogenesis in human, the experimental results obtained yet provide stimulatory impulses for the development of an effective treatment of choice in the not too distant future. The present review summarises the actual knowledge on the pathogenesis of hepatic fibrogenesis, the role of transforming growth factor-beta and its signalling pathways in promoting the fibrogenic response, and the therapeutic modalities that are presently in the spotlight of many investigations and are already on the way to take the plunge into clinical studies.

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