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      Candidate Biomarkers of Liver Fibrosis: A Concise, Pathophysiology-oriented Review

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          Repair of sustained liver injury results in fibrosis (i.e. the accumulation of extracellular matrix proteins), and ultimately the complete distortion of parenchymal architecture of the liver, which we call cirrhosis. Detecting and staging of fibrosis is thus a mainstay in the management of chronic liver diseases, since many clinically relevant decisions, such as starting treatment and/or monitoring for complications including hepatocellular carcinoma, may depend on it. The gold standard for fibrosis staging is liver biopsy, the role of which, however, is questioned nowadays because of cost, hazards and poor acceptance by patients. On the other hand, imaging techniques and/or measurement of direct and indirect serum markers have not proved to be completely satisfactory under all circumstances as alternatives to liver biopsy. Making progress in this field is now more crucial than ever, since treatments for established fibrosis appear on the horizon. Fine dissection of the pathways involved in the pathophysiology of liver diseases has put forward several novel candidate biomarkers of liver fibrosis, such as growth arrest-specific6, Mac-2-binding protein, osteopontin, placental growth factor, growth/differentiation factor 15 and hepatocyte growth factor. All molecules have been suggested to have potential to complement or substitute methods currently used to stage liver diseases. Here, we review the pros and cons for their use in this setting.

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          Most cited references 108

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          Liver fibrosis.

          Liver fibrosis is the excessive accumulation of extracellular matrix proteins including collagen that occurs in most types of chronic liver diseases. Advanced liver fibrosis results in cirrhosis, liver failure, and portal hypertension and often requires liver transplantation. Our knowledge of the cellular and molecular mechanisms of liver fibrosis has greatly advanced. Activated hepatic stellate cells, portal fibroblasts, and myofibroblasts of bone marrow origin have been identified as major collagen-producing cells in the injured liver. These cells are activated by fibrogenic cytokines such as TGF-beta1, angiotensin II, and leptin. Reversibility of advanced liver fibrosis in patients has been recently documented, which has stimulated researchers to develop antifibrotic drugs. Emerging antifibrotic therapies are aimed at inhibiting the accumulation of fibrogenic cells and/or preventing the deposition of extracellular matrix proteins. Although many therapeutic interventions are effective in experimental models of liver fibrosis, their efficacy and safety in humans is unknown. This review summarizes recent progress in the study of the pathogenesis and diagnosis of liver fibrosis and discusses current antifibrotic strategies.
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            MIC-1, a novel macrophage inhibitory cytokine, is a divergent member of the TGF-beta superfamily.

            Macrophages play a key role in both normal and pathological processes involving immune and inflammatory responses, to a large extent through their capacity to secrete a wide range of biologically active molecules. To identify some of these as yet not characterized molecules, we have used a subtraction cloning approach designed to identify genes expressed in association with macrophage activation. One of these genes, designated macrophage inhibitory cytokine 1 (MIC-1), encodes a protein that bears the structural characteristics of a transforming growth factor beta (TGF-beta) superfamily cytokine. Although it belongs to this superfamily, it has no strong homology to existing families, indicating that it is a divergent member that may represent the first of a new family within this grouping. Expression of MIC-1 mRNA in monocytoid cells is up-regulated by a variety of stimuli associated with activation, including interleukin 1beta, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha), interleukin 2, and macrophage colony-stimulating factor but not interferon gamma, or lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Its expression is also increased by TGF-beta. Expression of MIC-1 in CHO cells results in the proteolytic cleavage of the propeptide and secretion of a cysteine-rich dimeric protein of Mr 25 kDa. Purified recombinant MIC-1 is able to inhibit lipopolysaccharide -induced macrophage TNF-alpha production, suggesting that MIC-1 acts in macrophages as an autocrine regulatory molecule. Its production in response to secreted proinflammatory cytokines and TGF-beta may serve to limit the later phases of macrophage activation.
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              Anti-PlGF inhibits growth of VEGF(R)-inhibitor-resistant tumors without affecting healthy vessels.

              Novel antiangiogenic strategies with complementary mechanisms are needed to maximize efficacy and minimize resistance to current angiogenesis inhibitors. We explored the therapeutic potential and mechanisms of alphaPlGF, an antibody against placental growth factor (PlGF), a VEGF homolog, which regulates the angiogenic switch in disease, but not in health. alphaPlGF inhibited growth and metastasis of various tumors, including those resistant to VEGF(R) inhibitors (VEGF(R)Is), and enhanced the efficacy of chemotherapy and VEGF(R)Is. alphaPlGF inhibited angiogenesis, lymphangiogenesis, and tumor cell motility. Distinct from VEGF(R)Is, alphaPlGF prevented infiltration of angiogenic macrophages and severe tumor hypoxia, and thus, did not switch on the angiogenic rescue program responsible for resistance to VEGF(R)Is. Moreover, it did not cause or enhance VEGF(R)I-related side effects. The efficacy and safety of alphaPlGF, its pleiotropic and complementary mechanism to VEGF(R)Is, and the negligible induction of an angiogenic rescue program suggest that alphaPlGF may constitute a novel approach for cancer treatment.

                Author and article information

                J Clin Transl Hepatol
                J Clin Transl Hepatol
                Journal of Clinical and Translational Hepatology
                XIA & HE Publishing Inc.
                2 July 2018
                28 September 2018
                : 6
                : 3
                : 317-325
                [1 ]Department of Translational Medicine, Università del Piemonte Orientale UPO, Novara, Italy
                [2 ]Division of Internal Medicine, “Sant’Andrea Hospital”, Vercelli, Italy
                [3 ]IRCAD, Interdisciplinary Research Center of Autoimmune Diseases, Novara, Italy
                [4 ]Emergency Medicine Department, “AOU Maggiore della Carità”, Novara, Italy
                [5 ]Division of Internal Medicine, “AOU Maggiore della Carità, Novara, Italy
                Author notes
                * Correspondence to: Mattia Bellan, Department of Translational Medicine, Università del Piemonte Orientale UPO, via Solaroli 17, Novara (NO) 28100, Italy. Tel: +39-321-3733966, Fax: +39-321-3733361, E-mail: bellanmattia@

                The authors have no conflict of interests related to this publication.

                Contributed equally in study design, manuscript drafting and manuscript revision (MB, LMC, MP).

                © 2018 Authors.

                This article has been published under the terms of Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0), which permits noncommercial unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided that the following statement is provided. “This article has been published in Journal of Clinical and Translational Hepatology at DOI: 10.14218/JCTH.2018.00006 and can also be viewed on the Journal’s website at”.

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                plgf, hgf, gas6, biomarkers, staging, liver fibrosis


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