Goal 2: Reduce Human Disease

Fibrosis Across Organs: Bringing Together Investigators of Fibrosis of the Heart, Lungs and Bone Marrow

Fibrosis can affect essentially any tissue or organ, including the heart, lungs and bone marrow. Effective anti-fibrotic therapy has long been elusive, and transplantation has been the only therapy capable of restoring patient function as fibrotic diseases progress to organ failure. Although these diseases present clinically with organ-specific manifestations, they are now thought to share many common pathogenetic mechanisms. The critical challenge is to capitalize on emerging synergies between researchers focused on fibrotic diseases across NHLBI divisions, to foster research into shared pathways, and to foster clinical trials of agents targeting these pathways, for cardiac, pulmonary and myelofibrosis.

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Is this idea a Compelling Question (CQ) or Critical Challenge (CC)? : Critical Challenge (CC)

Details on the impact of addressing this CQ or CC :

In the aggregate, diseases characterized by fibrosis have been estimated to account for up to 45% of developed world deaths. Fibrotic diseases addressed by the NHLBI include heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF), idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF), and myelofibrosis (MF), among many others. Each fibrotic disease represents an area of great unmet clinical need, as patients suffer and die with no or limited effective disease-modifying therapies. The impact of developing effective therapies for each of these diseases individually would be great; the impact of developing therapies effective for the entire class of fibrotic diseases across organs would truly be enormous. The clinical burden of HFpEF is staggering – more than 650,000 new patients are diagnosed with heart failure in the US each year, half with diastolic dysfunction. Although not as prevalent, IPF and MF are particularly lethal. IPF has a median survival of approximately three years. MF is arguably the most aggressive of the myeloproliferative disorders and is associated with significantly shortened survival. Although agents such as spironolactone have been unable to treat fibrosis in HFpEF as yet, two anti-fibrotic drugs, pirfenidone and nintedanib, have now been shown to slow progression of IPF, and the oral JAK1/2 inhibitor ruxolitinib has been shown to improve MF survival. These early successes underscore the great impact that developing effective anti-fibrotic therapies will have.

Feasibility and challenges of addressing this CQ or CC :

This challenge could be addressed by funding research efforts to identify and therapeutically target fundamental pathogenetic mechanisms shared by fibrotic diseases across organs. Although fibrotic diseases present clinically with organ-specific manifestations, there has been a growing appreciation of that these diseases share many aspects of their pathogenesis. Fibrosis In many of these diseases results from recurrent or non-resolving epithelial or endothelial injury, followed by over-exuberant or aberrant mesenchymal cell responses. Across all organs, these processes result in the pathologic accumulation of fibroblasts and extracellular matrix, with distortion of organ architecture and loss of organ function. Core pathways leading to epithelial and endothelial cell injury and senescence, to fibroblast accumulation and persistence, and to altered matrix biochemical and biomechanical properties, are now being identified. Therapeutics developed to target these core pathways could have broad clinical applicability. Funding initiatives aimed at better the characterization of core fibrotic pathways already identified, the identification of new core fibrotic pathways, and the development of therapies to target core fibrotic pathways, could allow the NHLBI to simultaneously and cost-effectively address the great unmet needs of the large patients with any of the many devastating fibrotic diseases that affect the heart, lungs and bone marrow.

Name of idea submitter and other team members who worked on this idea : Andrew M. Tager

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Idea No. 768