The role of the fibrocyte, a bone marrow-derived mesenchymal progenitor, in reactive and reparative fibroses

Lab Invest. 2007 Sep;87(9):858-70. doi: 10.1038/labinvest.3700654. Epub 2007 Jul 2.


Human fibrocytes are mesenchymal progenitors that exhibit mixed morphological and molecular characteristics of hematopoietic stem cells, monocytes and fibroblasts. They likely represent the obligate intermediate stage of differentiation into mature mesenchymal cells of a bone marrow-derived precursor of the monocyte lineage under permissive conditions. On in vitro stimulation with pro-fibrotic cytokines and growth factors, human fibrocytes produce large quantities of extracellular matrix components and further differentiate into cells identical to the contractile myofibroblasts that emerge at the tissue sites during repair processes and in some fibrotic lesions. Studies in various animal models of wound healing or fibrotic diseases have confirmed the ability of fibrocytes to differentiate into mature mesenchymal cells in vivo and have suggested a causal link between fibrocyte accumulation and ongoing tissue fibrogenesis or vascular remodeling in response to tissue damage or hypoxia. Fibrocytes synthesizing new collagen or acquiring myofibroblast markers have been detected in human hypertrophic scars, in the skin of patients affected by nephrogenic systemic fibrosis, in human atherosclerotic lesions, and in pulmonary diseases characterized by repeated cycles of inflammation and repair, like asthma. The presence of fibrocyte-like cells has been reported in human chronic pancreatitis and chronic cystitis. Similar cells also populate the stroma surrounding human benign tumors. The available data indicate that human fibrocytes serve as a source of mature mesenchymal cells during reparative processes and in fibrotic disorders or stromal reactions predominantly associated with a persistent inflammatory infiltrate or with the selective recruitment of monocytes induced by ischemic changes and tumor development. A deeper understanding of the mechanisms involved in fibrocyte differentiation in these pathological conditions may lead to the development of novel therapies for preventing detrimental tissue or vascular remodeling and metastatic progression of invasive tumors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Asthma / pathology
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Fibrosis / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells* / pathology
  • Mesenchymal Stem Cells* / physiology
  • Wound Healing / physiology*