A unique feature of systemic sclerosis (SSc) that distinguishes it from other fibrotic disorders is that autoimmunity and vasculopathy characteristically precede fibrosis. Moreover, fibrosis in SSc is not restricted to a single organ, but rather affects many organs and accounts for much of the morbidity and mortality associated with this disease. Although immunomodulatory drugs have been used extensively in the treatment of SSc, no therapy to date has been able to reverse or slow the progression of tissue fibrosis or substantially modify the natural progression of the disease. In this Review, we highlight recent studies that shed light on the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the fibrotic process in SSc and that identify cellular processes and intra- and extracellular proteins as potential novel targets for therapy in this prototypic multisystemic fibrotic disease.
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