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Research at the Kennedy Institute reveals sub-populations of stromal cells with distinct functions in human fibrotic disease. These findings could inform development of more specific therapies with fewer off-target effects.

Dupuytren’s disease hand examination.
The study used human fibrotic tissue from Dupuytren’s disease, a common fibrotic condition of the hand

In their study, published in Nature Communications, the authors utilised single cell technologies to map different types of stromal cells and their relationship to each other in human tissues affected by fibrosis. Their approach revealed several distinct populations of stromal cells with different functional roles.

Fibrotic disorders arise from poorly regulated tissue repair processes, leading to a build-up of collagen and scar tissue that impairs organ function. These diseases are some of the most devastating and poorly treated conditions in the Western world, yet effective therapeutics are often lacking. 

Lead author Jagdeep Nanchahal said: "Animal models fail to replicate many aspects of human fibrosis and there remains limited availability of well-characterised patient samples at developing stages of disease. Our study exclusively used human fibrotic tissue from Dupuytren's disease, a common fibrotic condition of the hand, to profile an entire human fibrotic ecosystem at single cell resolution."

"We were able to build a single cell atlas of human fibrosis-promoting stromal cells and describe functionally distinct types and states. This division of labour between fibrotic stromal cells will allow us to form a powerful translational resource to help inform development of treatments and represents an exciting avenue for future research," he concluded.