Engineeringin vitromodels of hepatofibrogenesis
Chronic liver disease is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide marked by chronic inflammation and fibrosis/scarring, resulting in end-stage liver disease and its complications. Hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) are a dominant contributor to liver fibrosis by producing excessive extracellular matrix (ECM), irrespective of the underlying disease aetiologies, and for many decades research has focused on the development of a number of anti-fibrotic strategies targeting this cell. Despite major improvements in two-dimensional systems (2D) by using a variety of cell culture models of different complexity, an efficient anti-fibrogenic therapy has yet to be developed. The development of well-defined three-dimensional (3D) in vitro models, which mimic ECM structures as found in vivo, have demonstrated the importance of cell-matrix bio-mechanics, the complex interactions between HSCs and hepatocytes and other non-parenchymal cells, and this to improve and promote liver cell-specific functions. Henceforth, refinement of these 3D in vitro models, which reproduce the liver microenvironment, will lead to new objectives and to a possible new era in the search for antifibrogenic compounds.