, Volume 43, Issue 6, pp 419-428
Date: 04 Jul 2008

Molecular mechanism of hepatic stellate cell activation and antifibrotic therapeutic strategies

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Abstract

Activation of hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) is the dominant event in liver fibrosis. The early events in the organization of HSC activation have been termed initiation. Initiation encompasses rapid changes in gene expression and phenotype that render the cells responsive to cytokines and other local stimuli. Cellular responses following initiation are termed perpetuation, which encompasses those cellular events that amplify the activated phenotype through enhanced growth factor expression and responsiveness. Multiple cells and cytokines play a part in the regulation of HSC activation. HSC activation consists of discrete phenotype responses, mainly proliferation, contractility, fibrogenesis, matrix degradation, chemotaxis and retinoid loss. Currently, antifibrotic therapeutic strategies include inhibition of HSC proliferation or stimulation of HSC apoptosis, downregulation of collagen production or promotion of its degradation, administration of cytokines, and infusion of mesenchymal stem cells. In this review, we summarize the latest advances in our understanding of the mechanisms of HSC activation and possible antifibrotic therapeutic strategies.