New study identifies the cellular origin of liver fibrosis

Dr. Kinji Asahina (left) and Dr. Li (Photo courtesy of USC)
Dr. Kinji Asahina (left) and Dr. Li (Photo courtesy of USC)

Fibrosis is the process of scar tissue formation. Liver fibrosis can be caused by injury to the liver, chronic viral infection and alcohol abuse. Advanced liver fibrosis can lead to cirrhosis, portal hypertension and liver cancer. Understanding this process is important for prevention and developing treatment. A new study led by Kinji Asahina at the Southern California Research Center for Alcoholic Liver and Pancreatic Diseases and Cirrhosis at USC Keck School of Medicine has identified the cellular origin that is responsible for generating fibrotic tissues.

Using genetically modified mouse models of liver fibrosis, the group showed that mesothelial cells, the cellular population that forms the thin layer that covers the surfaces of internal organs, as well as the walls of cavities undergo differentiation to form the cell types that deposit fibrotic tissues in liver injury.

“We would like to coin this process MMT (mesothelial-mesenchymal transition), as it is governed by the same signaling pathway for EMT (epithelial-mesenchymal transition) that leads to tumor invasion and metastasis.” said Asahina.

Their study is published in February issue of Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences and recommended by F1000 Prime.