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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2013 Jul;1832(7):962-71. doi: 10.1016/j.bbadis.2012.11.015. Epub 2012 Dec 4.

Resident mesenchymal cells and fibrosis.

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Division of Nephrology, Department of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA; Division of Nephrology, Department of Pathology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA; Center for Lung Biology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA.


Fibrosis is a major clinical problem associated with as many as 45% of all natural deaths in developed nations. It can affect all organs and accumulating evidence indicates that fibrogenesis is not merely a bystander product of injury, but is a central pathological problem directly contributing to loss of organ function. In the majority of clinical cases, fibrogenesis is strongly associated with the recruitment of leukocytes, even in the absence of infection. Although chronic infections are a significant cause of fibrogenesis, in most cases fibrotic disease occurs in the context of sterile injury, such as microvascular disease, toxic epithelial injury or diabetes mellitus. Fibrogenesis is a direct consequence of the activation of extensive, and previously poorly appreciated, populations of mesenchymal cells in our organs which are either wrapped around capillaries and known as 'pericytes', or embedded in interstitial spaces between cell structures and known as resident 'fibroblasts'. Recent fate-mapping and complementary studies in several organs indicate that these cells are the precursors of the scar-forming myofibroblasts that appear in our organs in response to injury. Here we will review the literature supporting a central role for these cells in fibrogenesis, and highlight some of the critical cell to cell interactions that are necessary for the initiation and continuation of the fibrogenic process. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Fibrosis: Translation of basic research to human disease.

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