Researchers at the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) in Barcelona, Spain, have led a study published on September 26, 2012 in the online journal PLoS One showing that the inhibition of a family member of NADPH oxidase enzyme, NOX4, plays an important role in liver fibrosis. The researchers studied the function of a cytokine called transforming growth factor-beta (TGF-beta) in the pathophysiology of the liver, which is one of the main research lines of the Biological Clues of the Invasive and Metastatic Phenotype research group at the IDIBELL, led by Dr. Isabel Fabregat. This paper is related to the processes of liver fibrosis, an illness caused by the overproduction of extracellular matrix proteins in the liver tissue. During fibrosis, levels of TGF-beta are increased, and there is an activation of the extracellular matrix producing the activation of protecting cells of the extracellular matrix and other possible events leading to the death of hepatocytes. The TGF-beta is a complex cytokine. It is a prominent tumor suppressor in early stages of tumor formation, but, in advanced stages, the cells adapt to escape from the growth inhibitory signals and, under these conditions, the TGF-beta is able to potentiate tumor progression, contributing to metastasis. The study published in PLoS One is a collaboration between IDIBELL and the research group of Dr. Wolfgang Mikulits, co-author of the study, at the Cancer Research Institute of the Medical University of Vienna (Austria), that has provided cellular and animal models. The analysis in patient samples has been possible thanks to the collaboration with the University Hospital Alcorcon Foundation and the Complutense University of Madrid.
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