Hepatic stellate cells: a target for the treatment of liver fibrosis
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Hepatic fibrosis is a wound-healing process that occurs when the liver is injured chronically. Hepatic stellate cells (HSC) are responsible for the excess production of extracellular matrix (ECM) components. The activation of HSC, a key issue in the pathogenesis of hepatic fibrosis, is mediated by various cytokines and reactive oxygen species released from the damaged hepatocytes and activated Kupffer cells. Therefore, inhibition of HSC activation and its related subsequent events, such as increased production of ECM components and enhanced proliferation, are crucial goals for intervention in the hepatic fibrogenesis cascade. This is especially true when the etiology is unknown or there is no established therapy for the cause of the chronic injury. This review explores the rationale for choosing HSC as a target for the pharmacological, molecular, and other novel therapeutics for hepatic fibrosis. One focus of this review is the inhibition of two cytokines, transforming growth factor-β and platelet-derived growth factor, which are important in hepatic fibrogenesis. A number of new agents, such as Chinese herbal recipes and herbal extracts, silymarin, S-adenosyl-l-methionine, polyenylphosphatidylcholine, and pentoxifylline are also discussed.
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