Insights into myofibroblasts and their activation in scleroderma: opportunities for therapy?

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Abstract

Purpose of review

The persistence of myofibroblasts is a key feature of fibrosis and in fibrotic diseases including scleroderma. This review evaluates the emerging concepts of the origins and cell populations that contribute to myofibroblasts and the molecular mechanisms that govern phenotypic conversion and that highlight opportunities for new interventional treatments in scleroderma.

Recent findings

Studies have defined heterogeneity in fibroblast-like cells that can develop into myofibroblast in normal wound healing, scarring and fibrosis. Characterizing these distinct cell populations and their behaviour has been a key focus. In addition, the overarching impact of epigenetic regulation of genes associated with inflammatory responses, cell signalling and cell communication and the extracellular matrix (ECM) has provided important insights into the formation of myofibroblast and their function. Important new studies include investigations into the relationship between inflammation and myofibroblast production and further evidence has been gathered that reveal the importance of ECM microenvironment, biomechanical sensing and mechanotransduction.

Summary

This review highlights our current understanding and outlines the increasing complexity of the biological processes that leads to the appearance of the myofibroblast in normal functions and in diseased tissues. We also focus on areas of special interest in particular, studies that have therapeutic potential in fibrosis and scleroderma.

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