Fibrosis and Repair

Tissue repair and regeneration is an ongoing process in most organs and is especially important for maintaining tissue integrity and function in organs such as the lung, liver and gut that are exposed to environmental toxins and microbes. As we age the reparative process that ensures optimal tissue repair and regeneration become less effective, such that replacement of lost functional tissue is impaired. Most organs can cope with a degree of permanent scar tissue, however in the context of a chronic disease the fibrotic process can spread leading to loss of normal organ architecture and function.

It has been estimated that as many as 45% of deaths in the developed world have fibrosis as an underlying pathology. The aim of the Fibrosis & Repair theme is to understand the mechanisms that regulate the fine balance between tissue regeneration and fibrosis in organs including the liver, heart, lung and kidney, and to interrogate the cellular and molecular regulators of fibrosis in human tissue with the aim of developing new biomarkers and therapeutic targets. A major focus will be the scar-forming myofibroblast, which is a common cellular player in all fibrotic organs and which has been demonstrated to be essential for progression of fibrosis.

We will want to understand the characteristics of these cells in diseased human tissues and in particular determine how their phenotype is controlled at the molecular level. Gaining knowledge of common (or so-called ‘core’) regulatory factors will help us to develop generic biomarkers and potentially new drugs. Such factors are already emerging and include the hormones serotonin and angiotensin which already have many modifying drugs used in the treatment of mood disorders and hypertension. Working out if these drugs have efficacy in the treatment of fibrosis is an important objective for the theme.

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