Progression of hepatic fibrosis requires sustained inflammation leading to activation of stellate cells into a fibrogenic and proliferative cell type, whereas regression is associated with stellate cell apoptosis. The contribution of hepatic macrophages to these events has been largely overlooked. However, a study in this issue of the JCI demonstrates that macrophages play pivotal but divergent roles, favoring ECM accumulation during ongoing injury but enhancing matrix degradation during recovery. These findings underscore the potential importance of hepatic macrophages in regulating both stellate cell biology and ECM degradation during regression of hepatic fibrosis.
Scott L. Friedman