Fibrosis is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. Currently, therapeutic options for tissue fibrosis are severely limited, and organ transplantation is the only effective treatment for end-stage fibrotic disease. However, demand for donor organs greatly outstrips supply, and so effective anti-fibrotic treatments are urgently required. In recent years, the integrin family of cell adhesion receptors has gained prominence as key regulators of chronic inflammation and fibrosis. Fibrosis models in multiple organs have demonstrated that integrins have profound effects on the fibrotic process. There is now abundant in vivo data demonstrating critical regulatory roles for integrins expressed on different cell types during tissue fibrogenesis. In this review, we will examine the ways in which integrins regulate these processes and discuss how the manipulation of integrins using function blocking antibodies and small molecule inhibitors may have clinical utility in the treatment of patients with a broad range of fibrotic diseases. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Fibrosis: Translation of basic research to human disease.
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