An HSV-TK transgenic mouse model to evaluate elimination of fibroblasts for fibrosis therapy

Bin Tian, Lei Han, Jill Kleidon, Craig A. Henke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Pathological fibroproliferation after tissue injury is harmful and may lead to organ dysfunction. Unfortunately, fibroproliferative diseases remain intractable to current therapeutic strategies. Thus, new therapeutic approaches are needed. One possible approach is to promote resolution of physiological fibroproliferation that follows injury before it becomes pathological by activating apoptosis selectively in fibrotic lesions. However, it is not known whether selective elimination of fibroblasts will prevent fibrosis or impede repair or worsen injury by eliminating topographic signals essential to organ reconstitution. To address this question, a tractable in vivo model system is needed in which fibroblasts can be targeted to undergo apoptosis at a chosen time and place. We developed transgenic mice expressing HSV-TK from the type I collagen promoter to determine whether selective elimination of fibroblasts actively forming fibrotic lesions is an effective therapeutic strategy for fibroproliferative disorders. The transgene renders fibroblasts actively forming fibrotic tissue susceptible to ganciclovir. To validate the transgenic model we examined whether administration of ganciclovir prevents the development of fibrosis in sponges implanted subcutaneously in the backs of the transgenic mice. We demonstrate that fibroblasts/myofibroblasts isolated from sponges express HSV-TK protein and are selectively ablated by ganciclovir in vitro. In adult transgenic mice, ganciclovir treatment attenuated the development of fibrotic tissue in the sponges both biochemically and histologically. We conclude that this transgenic model system is an ideal approach to determine whether targeted ablation of fibroblasts is an effective therapeutic strategy for fibrotic diseases.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)789-801
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Pathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2003


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