Canadian Journal Of Physiology And Pharmacology [Can J Physiol Pharmacol] 2019 Jun; Vol. 97 (6), pp. 493-497. Date of Electronic Publication: 2018 Nov 23.
Animals, Humans, Fibroblasts cytology, Phenotype, and Terminology as Topic
Fibroblasts have long been recognized as important stromal cells, playing key roles in synthesizing and maintaining the extracellular matrix, but historically were treated as a relatively uniform cell type. Studies in recent years have revealed a surprising level of heterogeneity of fibroblasts across tissues, and even within organs such as the skin and heart. This heterogeneity may have functional consequences, including during stress and disease. While the field has moved forward quickly to begin to address the scientific import of this heterogeneity, the descriptive language used for these cells has not kept pace, particularly when considering the phenotype changes that occur as fibroblasts convert to myofibroblasts in response to injury. We discuss here the nature and sources of the heterogeneity of fibroblasts, and review how our understanding of the complexity of the fibroblast to myofibroblast phenotype conversion has changed with increasing scrutiny. We propose that the time is opportune to reevaluate how we name and describe these cells, particularly as they transition to myofibroblasts through discrete stages. A standardized nomenclature is essential to address the confusion that currently exists in the literature as to the usage of terms like myofibroblast and the description of fibroblast phenotype changes in disease.
Cardiac fibrosis is a significant global health problem that is closely associated with multiple forms of cardiovascular disease, including myocardial infarction, dilated cardiomyopathy, and diabetes. Fibrosis increases myocardial wall stiffness due to excessive extracellular matrix deposition, causing impaired systolic and diastolic function, and facilitating arrhythmogenesis. As a result, patient morbidity and mortality are often dramatically elevated compared with those with cardiovascular disease but without overt fibrosis, demonstrating that fibrosis itself is both a pathologic response to existing disease and a significant risk factor for exacerbation of the underlying condition. The lack of any specific treatment for cardiac fibrosis in patients suffering from cardiovascular disease is a critical gap in our ability to care for these individuals. Here we provide an overview of the development of cardiac fibrosis, and discuss new research directions that have recently emerged and that may lead to the creation of novel treatments for patients with cardiovascular diseases. Such treatments would, ideally, complement existing therapy by specifically focusing on amelioration of fibrosis.