Scleroderma pathogenesis: a pivotal role for fibroblasts as effector cells
Centre for Rheumatology, UCL Medical School, Royal Free Campus, Rowland Hill Street, London, UK
Arthritis Research & Therapy 2013, 15:215 doi:10.1186/ar4230Published: 17 June 2013
Scleroderma (systemic sclerosis; SSc) is characterised by fibrosis of the skin and internal organs in the context of autoimmunity and vascular perturbation. Overproduction of extracellular matrix components and loss of specialised epithelial structures are analogous to the process of scar formation after tissue injury. Fibroblasts are the resident cells of connective tissue that become activated at sites of damage and are likely to be important effector cells in SSc. Differentiation into myofibroblasts is a hallmark process, although the mechanisms and cellular origins of this important fibroblastic cell are still unclear. This article reviews fibroblast biology in the context of SSc and highlights the potentially important place of fibroblast effector cells in fibrosis. Moreover, the heterogeneity of fibroblast properties, multiplicity of regulatory pathways and diversity of origin for myofibroblasts may underpin clinical diversity in SSc, and provide novel avenues for targeted therapy.