Fibrosis is a large group of diseases that remains without effective treatment. Fibrosis is caused when a wound healing process goes out of control and progresses into a continuing scarring process in the effected organs. Pulmonary (lung) fibrosis affects ~5 million people around the world, renal (kidney) fibrosis (57 million), and liver fibrosis is one of the top ten causes of death worldwide. Other forms of fibrosis include radiation induced fibrosis and Duchenne muscular dystrophy. The basic fibrotic process, in all types of fibrosis, is related to the over-production of the protein collagen, in response to an injury. The key issue in finding anti-fibrotic drugs is that collagen is not a "target" in the common sense – it is not an enzyme and is not involved in chemical reactions. It exists in huge quantities as it is used to build the body's skin, bones, and connective tissues. Thus, searching for small molecules that will bind to collagen to "neutralize" it is not a valid therapeutic strategy.
The images below show Anima's technology being used to compare the synthesis of collagen between healthy and fibrotic cells. With Anima's platform we can see the process of collagen production, monitor the translation of collagen by ribosomes, and discover molecules that interfere with the over-production of collagen.
The left image shows healthy cells producing collagen in a steady state and is nearly dark because very little collagen is being produced, so very little light is coming out of the ribosomes. In the middle image, we can see how for fibrotic cells the whole cells "lights up" in a bright cloud of light.
With Anima's platform, we use high content screening methods and automated microscopes to scan large libraries of chemical compounds. We image the cells after being exposed to each of the drug candidates, and look for molecules that "turn-off" the lights. The last image shows such a molecule – most of the light is gone, meaning that collagen synthesis has been inhibited to a large extent.