Fibrosis Research Group

While fibrosis is the causative pathology of more than 40% of mortality globally, the treatment options are limited in numbers and efficacy. View the video below to find out more about fibrosis.

Our group focuses on discovery and development of novel anti-fibrotic drugs through phenotypic screening assays rather than single-target approach. We develop and validate in vitro and in vivo phenotypic screening assays that are relevant to pathophysiology of fibrosis. Our in vitro cell models are based on human primary cells, rather than commercially available cell lines.

We have developed and validated phenotypic assays amenable to high throughput screening, as well as secondary functional assays. One of our workstreams has identified two hit compounds which have been further tested and validated in in vivo models and are now being taken to clinical studies.

Cells as viewed through a microscope

The unmet need for anti-fibrotic therapeutics has recently been highlighted by the risk of fibrotic conditions being increased by Covid-19 infection. It is now estimated that 5-30% of patients who have had severe Covid-19 infection are at the risk of developing long term lung, heart or kidney problems which are associated with fibrosis.

Moreover, the number of skin burns have increased significantly during Covid-19 lockdown; some of these burns may cause scarring, which also is a fibrotic condition. Therefore, new treatments that can prevent fibrosis formation are urgently needed. Our work towards achieving this has recently been highlighted in BBC News.

Read more about our approach:

We offer our in vitro cellular phenotypic assays to external groups and organisations; we will be happy to test your lead/candidate compounds/molecules. We are also open to discussion around development of novel phenotypic assays for fibrosis or other indications with unmet need.

Please contact mtrc@aru.ac.uk for more information.

Researchers

Current doctoral students

  • Sophie Harding
  • Matthew Megson

Past doctoral students

  • William Stebbeds
  • Marta Mateus
  • Marcus Ilg
  • Alice Lapthorn

Projects

Development of phenotypic screening assay for Peyronie’s disease in collaboration with Profs David Ralph and Asif Muneer at University College London Hospital. Current stage: the assay has been developed and validated, screened small molecule compounds; two hits validated in vitro and in vivo; now seeking funding for a clinical trial. 

Development of phenotypic screening assay for burns patients in collaboration with Prof Peter Dziewulski, St Andrews Centre for Plastic Surgery and Burns. Current stage: Assay has been developed and validated, screened small molecule compounds; hit validation in progress.

Projects being developed: Phenotypic screening assays using human primary cardiac, intestine, liver, and lung fibroblasts.

Key publications

Selection of full papers

Selection of conference abstracts

  • Ilg, M. M., Lapthorn, A. R., Muneer, A., Christopher, N., Cellek, S., Ralph, D. J. (2020). High-throughput phenotypic screening campaign of 1,954 FDA-approved drugs reveals 41 hits with anti-myofibroblast activity in an in vitro model of Peyronie’s disease. J Sex Med. 17(6): S129.
  • Ilg, M. M., Stebbeds, W. J., Parnham, A., Garaffa, G., Muneer, A., Christopher, N., Cellek, S., Ralph, D. J. (2019). Vardenafil, tamoxifen and their combination can prevent but not reverse TGF-beta1-induced myofibroblast transformation of TA-derived cells. J Sex Med. 16(5): S11.
  • Milenkovic, U., Janky, R., Hatzichristodoulou, G., van Renterghem, K., Cellek, S., Bivalacqua, T., De Ridder, D., Albersen, M. (2019). Transcriptome-wide analysis of Peyronie’s disease plaques using RNA sequencing uncovers targetable signalling pathways for medical therapy. J Sex Med. 16(5): S11-S12.
  • Lapthorn, A. R., Ilg, M. M., Sullivan J. V., Dziewulski, P., Cellek, S. (2019). Development of a high-throughput, cell-based phenotypic assay to identify novel anti-fibrotic medicines to prevent scar formation after burn injury. J Invest Dermatol. 139(5): S122.
  • Milenkovic, U., Janky, R., Hatzichristodoulou, G., van Renterghem, K., Cellek, S., Bivalacqua, T., De Ridder, D., Albersen, M. (2019). Peyronie’s disease plaque transcriptome-wide analysis using RNA sequencing reveals targetable signalling pathways for medical treatment. J Urol. 201(4): E860-E861.
  • Ilg, M. M., Mateus, M., Stebbeds, W., Milenkovic, U., Muneer, A., Christopher, N., Albersen, M., Ralph, D. J., Cellek, S. (2018). PDE5 inhibitors and selective oestrogen receptor modulators exert anti-fibrotic synergy in in vitro and in vivo models of Peyronie's disease. Int J Exp Path. 99(6): A44-A45.
  • Ilg, M. M., Milenkovic, U., Muneer, A., Cellek, S., Ralph, D. J. (2018). Synergy Between Vardenafil and Tamoxifen in a Rat Model of Peyronie’s Disease. Eur Urol. 17 (2): e1387.
  • Ilg M. M., Mateus, M., Stebbeds, W. J., Raheem, B. A. A., Spilotros, M., Capece, M., Parnham, A., Garaffa, G., Muneer, A., Christopher, N., Cellek, S., Ralph, D. J. (2017). Development and validation of a phenotypic high-throughput, cell-based assay for anti-myofibroblast activity in Peyronie’s disease. Eur Urol. 16 (3): e1937-e1938.
  • Mateus, M., Stebbeds, W. J., Ameyaw, B., Raheem, B. A. A., Spilotros, M., Garaffa, G., Muneer, A., Christopher, N., Cellek, S., Ralph, D. J. (2016). First results from a novel cell-based assay for anti-myofibroblast activity in Peyronie's disease. J Sex Med. 13 (5): S89.

Contact us

Email: mtrc@aru.ac.uk

Donate to support our fibrosis research

In order to continue our essential work on developing new anti-fibrotic medicines, we need your support. Your donations will be used to purchase research material and hire new researchers and will make a big difference to the lives of thousands of patients who are waiting for a treatment. Thank you!

Donate to our fibrosis appeal