Biomarkers of hepatic fibrosis, fibrogenesis and genetic pre-disposition pending between fiction and reality

2007 Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine 11, 5 (1031-1051)

Fibrosis is a frequent, life-threatening complication of most chronic liver diseases. Despite major achievements in the understanding of its pathogenesis, the translation of this knowledge into clinical practice is still limited. In particular, non-invasive and reliable (serum-) biomarkers indicating the activity of fibrogenesis are scarce. Class I biomarkers are defined as serum components having a direct relation to the mechanism of fibrogenesis, either as secreted matrix-related components of activated hepatic stellate cells and fibroblasts or as mediators of extracellular matrix (ECM) synthesis or turnover. They reflect primarily the activity of the fibrogenic process. Many of them, however, proved to be disappointing with regard to sensitivity and specificity. Up to now hyaluronan turned out to be the relative best type I serum marker. Class II biomarkers comprise in general rather simple standard laboratory tests, which are grouped into panels. They fulfil most criteria for detection and staging of fibrosis and to a lesser extent grading of fibrogenic activity. More than 20 scores are currently available, among which Fibrotest is the most popular one. However, the diagnostic use of many of these scores is still limited and standardization of the assays is only partially realized. Combining of panel markers in sequential algorithms might increase their diagnostic validity. The translation of genetic pre-disposition biomarkers into clinical practice has not yet started, but some polymorphisms indicate a link to progression and outcome of fibrogenesis. Parallel to serum markers non-invasive physical techniques, for example, transient elastography, are developed, which can be combined with serum tests and profiling of serum proteins and glycans.

Pubmed : 17979881