Sci Rep. 2020 Mar 2;10(1):3850. doi: 10.1038/s41598-020-60615-0.
PubMed ID: 32123215
Hepatic fibrosis is a major consequence of chronic liver disease such as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis which is undergoing a dramatic evolution given the obesity progression worldwide, and has no treatment to date. Hepatic stellate cells (HSCs) play a key role in the fibrosis process, because in chronic liver damage, they transdifferentiate from a “quiescent” to an “activated” phenotype responsible for most the collagen deposition in liver tissue. Here, using a diet-induced liver fibrosis murine model (choline-deficient amino acid-defined, high fat diet), we characterized a specific population of HSCs organized as clusters presenting simultaneously hypertrophy of retinoid droplets, quiescent and activated HSC markers. We showed that hypertrophied HSCs co-localized with fibrosis areas in space and time. Importantly, we reported the existence of this phenotype and its association with collagen deposition in three other mouse fibrosis models, including CCl4-induced fibrosis model. Moreover, we have also shown its relevance in human liver fibrosis associated with different etiologies (obesity, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, viral hepatitis C and alcoholism). In particular, we have demonstrated a significant positive correlation between the stage of liver fibrosis and HSC hypertrophy in a cohort of obese patients with hepatic fibrosis. These results lead us to conclude that hypertrophied HSCs are closely associated with hepatic fibrosis in a metabolic disease context and may represent a new marker of metabolic liver disease progression.