A team of researchers from Harvard Stem Cell Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital has uncovered a rare stem cell population that contributes to fibrosis, the buildup of scar tissue which causes inflammation, organ damage, and often organ failure. Found outside the blood vessels and within organ tissue, these stem cells expand and become myofibroblasts when there is continued organ injury. Under normal circumstances, myofibroblasts are essential to wound healing and disappear when no longer needed, but with ongoing injury, they remain behind, causing excessive scarring.
The researchers were able to show that destroying the stem cells improved fibrosis and prevented organ failure in the kidneys and heart. They believe that these special stem cells present a promising drug target to treat fibrosis.
Cellular Origin of Fibrosis Found, ScienceDaily, November 20, 2014
Humphreys, B. D., and Kramann, R. et al. Perivascular Gli1 progenitors are key contributors to injury-induced organ fibrosis. Cell Stem Cell, November 2014 DOI: 10.1016/j.stem.2014.11.004