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Front Pharmacol. 2016 Jan 7;6:303. doi: 10.3389/fphar.2015.00303. eCollection 2015.

Hepatoprotective and Anti-fibrotic Agents: It's Time to Take the Next Step.

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Institute of Molecular Pathobiochemistry, Experimental Gene Therapy, and Clinical Chemistry, RWTH University Hospital Aachen Aachen, Germany.


Hepatic fibrosis and cirrhosis cause strong human suffering and necessitate a monetary burden worldwide. Therefore, there is an urgent need for the development of therapies. Pre-clinical animal models are indispensable in the drug discovery and development of new anti-fibrotic compounds and are immensely valuable for understanding and proofing the mode of their proposed action. In fibrosis research, inbreed mice and rats are by far the most used species for testing drug efficacy. During the last decades, several hundred or even a thousand different drugs that reproducibly evolve beneficial effects on liver health in respective disease models were identified. However, there are only a few compounds (e.g., GR-MD-02, GM-CT-01) that were translated from bench to bedside. In contrast, the large number of drugs successfully tested in animal studies is repeatedly tested over and over engender findings with similar or identical outcome. This circumstance undermines the 3R (Replacement, Refinement, Reduction) principle of Russell and Burch that was introduced to minimize the suffering of laboratory animals. This ethical framework, however, represents the basis of the new animal welfare regulations in the member states of the European Union. Consequently, the legal authorities in the different countries are halted to foreclose testing of drugs in animals that were successfully tested before. This review provides a synopsis on anti-fibrotic compounds that were tested in classical rodent models. Their mode of action, potential sources and the observed beneficial effects on liver health are discussed. This review attempts to provide a reference compilation for all those involved in the testing of drugs or in the design of new clinical trials targeting hepatic fibrosis.


3R principle; animal experimentation; clinical trials; collagen; hepatic fibrosis; therapy; translational medicine; α-smooth muscle actin

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