Emerging role of immune cells as drivers of pulmonary fibrosis


The pathogenesis of pulmonary fibrosis, including idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) and other forms of interstitial lung disease, involves a complex interplay of various factors including host genetics, environmental pollutants, infection, aberrant repair and dysregulated immune responses. Highly variable clinical outcomes of some ILDs, in particular IPF, have made it difficult to identify the precise mechanisms involved in disease pathogenesis and thus the development of a specific cure or treatment to halt and reverse the decline in patient health. With the advent of in-depth molecular diagnostics, it is becoming evident that the pathogenesis of IPF is unlikely to be the same for all patients and therefore will likely require different treatment approaches. Chronic inflammation is a cardinal feature of IPF and is driven by both innate and adaptive immune responses. Inflammatory cells and activated fibroblasts secrete various pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines that perpetuate the inflammatory response and contribute to the recruitment and activation of more immune cells and fibroblasts. The balance between pro-inflammatory and regulatory immune cell subsets, as well as the interactions between immune cell types and resident cells within the lung microenvironment, ultimately determines the extent of fibrosis and the potential for resolution. This review examines the role of the innate and adaptive immune responses in pulmonary fibrosis, with an emphasis on IPF. The role of different immune cell types is discussed as well as novel anti-inflammatory and immunotherapy approaches currently in clinical trial or in preclinical development.

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