Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis: from epithelial injury to biomarkers--insights from the bench side

Respiration. 2013;86(6):441-52. doi: 10.1159/000357598. Epub 2013 Dec 14.


Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is the most frequent fibrotic diffuse parenchymal lung disease. Its prognosis is devastating: >50% of the patients die within 3 years after diagnosis. Options for the treatment of IPF are limited and lung transplantation is the only 'curative' therapy. Currently, in the absence of validated indicators of disease progression/activity and diagnostic tools, the clinical management of IPF remains a major challenge. A better understanding of the pathogenesis of IPF is critical for the identification of new therapeutic targets as well as molecules that may serve as surrogate markers for clinically significant endpoints. The current paradigm on the mechanisms leading from a normal to a fibrotic lung postulates that chronic epithelial lesion leads to aberrant wound healing activation, which is characterized by deregulated fibroblast proliferation and activation together with an uncontrolled extracellular matrix synthesis. In this review, we shed light on the role of epithelial cell damage in the pathogenesis of fibrosis. Finally, we examine the markers of epithelial damage and their potential use as biomarkers and the future of this continuously expanding field.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Bronchoalveolar Lavage Fluid / chemistry
  • Epithelial Cells / pathology*
  • Epithelium / pathology
  • Humans
  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis / metabolism
  • Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis / pathology*
  • Inflammation / pathology
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 1 / analysis
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 7 / analysis
  • Mucin-1 / analysis
  • Osteopontin / analysis
  • Pulmonary Alveoli / pathology
  • Pulmonary Surfactant-Associated Protein A / analysis
  • Pulmonary Surfactant-Associated Protein D / analysis
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / analysis


  • Biomarkers
  • MUC1 protein, human
  • Mucin-1
  • Pulmonary Surfactant-Associated Protein A
  • Pulmonary Surfactant-Associated Protein D
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Osteopontin
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 7
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 1