UCL Division of Medicine


Fibrosis and Tissue Repair

One of our concerns at the Institute for Liver and Digestive Health is tissue repair. Our current research interest is fibrogenesis with focus on Hepatic Stellate Cell behaviour in liver fibrosis and liver cancer cell biology with a specific focus on fibrotic stroma - cancer cell interaction.

Our work 

Our current research interest is fibrogenesis with focus on Hepatic Stellate Cell behaviour in liver fibrosis and liver cancer cell biology with a specific focus on fibrotic stroma - cancer cell interaction. Further interests include genetic polymorphism heterogeneity - cell behaviour in diseases such as Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease and Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis and cancer development.

The Team’s research remit covers both identifying/characterization of human organ specific Extracellular Matrix and cellular components of tissues, with a specific focus on cell behaviour in 2D and 3D cell culture systems for improvement of new target identification and drug development. 

Together with the ENETS oncology team of the Royal Free Hospital we are exploring mesenteric fibrosis in small intestinal neuroendocrine tumours:

  • pathogenesis and potential therapeutic targets
  • early biomarker detection in mesenteric fibrosis
  • Deep Sequencing of gastroenteropancreatic neuroendocrine carcinoma.

YouTube Widget Placeholderhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inNTAvB9Uow

Our experts

Professor Krista Rombouts

Prof. Krista Rombouts (Lead)
Professor of Experimental Hepatology

Professor Massimo Pinzani

Prof. Massimo Pinzani
Emeritus Professor

Professor Giuseppe Massa

Prof. Giuseppe Mazza
Honorary Associate Professor

Dr Walid Al-Akkad Abu-Zeina

Dr Walid Al-Akkad Abu-Zeina
Honorary Research Fellow

Marlon Lemos Dias

Marlon Lemos Dias
International Researcher

Dr Peng Dai

Dr Peng Dai
Research Fellow

Basic silhouette in a circle, in light grey

Dr Yan Jun
Research Fellow

Basic silhouette in a circle, in light grey

Harry Hodgetts
Research Assistant

NHS collaborators

Professor Martyn Caplin

Prof. Martyn Caplin
Gastroenterology & neuroendocrine

Professor Christos Toumpanakis

Prof. Christos Toumpanakis
Gastroenteorology & neuroendocrine

Dr Daniel Krell

Dr Daniel Krell
Consultant medical oncologist

Dr Conrad von Stempel

Dr Conrad von Stempel
Interventional vascular & uroradiologist

Dr Amir Gander

Dr Amir Gander
HTA Designated Individual, Tissue Access

Basic silhouette in a circle, in light grey

Dr Dalvinder S. Mandair

PhD students

  1. Maria Inês Castanho Martins
  2. Saiji Kathiresu Nageshwaran
  3. Giulia Lupo


Selected publications

  1. Al-Akkad W, Acedo P, Vilia MG ... Hall AR ... Luong TV, Whittaker SR, Pereira SP, Vallier L, Pinzani M, Rombouts K, Mazza G (2022). Tissue-Specific Human Extracellular Matrix Scaffolds Promote Pancreatic Tumour Progression and Chemotherapy Resistance. Cells. 2022 Nov 17;11(22):3652.

  2. Thanapirom K, Caon E, Papatheodoridi M, Frenguelli L, Al-Akkad W, Zhenzhen Z, Vilia MG, Pinzani M, Mazza G, Rombouts K (2021). Optimization and Validation of a Novel Three-Dimensional Co-Culture System in Decellularized Human Liver Scaffold for the Study of Liver Fibrosis and Cancer. Cancers (Basel). 2021 Sep 30;13(19):4936.

  3. Laskaratos FM, Levi A, Schwach G, Pfragner R, Hall A, Xia D, von Stempel C ... Luong TV, Toumpanakis C, Mandair D, Caplin M, Rombouts K (2021). Transcriptomic Profiling of In Vitro Tumor-Stromal Cell Paracrine Crosstalk Identifies Involvement of the Integrin Signaling Pathway in the Pathogenesis of Mesenteric Fibrosis in Human Small Intestinal Neuroendocrine Neoplasms. Frontiers Oncology. 2021 Feb 24;11:629665. eCollection 2021.

  4. Dat NQ, Thuy LTT, Hieu VN ... Rombouts K, Dong MP, Hanh NV ... Pinzani M, Kawada N (2021). Hexa Histidine-Tagged Recombinant Human Cytoglobin Deactivates Hepatic Stellate Cells and Inhibits Liver Fibrosis by Scavenging Reactive Oxygen Species. Hepatology. 2021 Jun;73(6):2527-2545. Epub 2021 May 22. Erratum in: Hepatology. 2022 Dec;76(6):1902.

  5. Böttcher K, Longato L, Marrone G, Mazza G, Ghemtio L, Hall A, Luong TV, Caruso S, Viollet B, Zucman-Rossi J, Pinzani M, Rombouts K (2021). AICAR and compound C negatively modulate HCC-induced primary human hepatic stellate cell activation in vitro. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2021 Apr 1;320(4):G543-G556.

  6. Pavlović N, Calitz C, Thanapirom K, Mazza G, Rombouts K, Gerwins P, Heindryckx F (2020). Inhibiting IRE1α-endonuclease activity decreases tumor burden in a mouse model for hepatocellular carcinoma. Elife. 2020 Oct 26;9:e55865.

  7. Zanieri F, Levi A, Montefusco D ... Luong TV ... Mazza G, Argemi J, Bataller R, Cowart LA, Kester M, Pinzani M, Rombouts K (2020). Exogenous Liposomal Ceramide-C6 Ameliorates Lipidomic Profile, Energy Homeostasis, and Anti-Oxidant Systems in NASH. Cells. 2020 May 16;9(5):1237.

  8. Okina Y, Sato-Matsubara M, Matsubara T, Daikoku A, Longato L, Rombouts K ... Pinzani M, Kawada N. TGF-β1-driven reduction of cytoglobin leads to oxidative DNA damage in stellate cells during non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. Journal of Hepatology. 2020 Apr 17. pii: S0168-8278(20)30228-2.

  9. Barcena-Varela M, Paish H, Alvarez L ... Rombouts K, Oakley F, Mann J, et al (2020). Epigenetic mechanisms and metabolic reprogramming in fibrogenesis: dual targeting of G9a and DNMT1 for the inhibition of liver fibrosis. Gut. 2020 Apr 23. pii: gutjnl-2019-320205.

  10. Kostrzewski T, Maraver P, Ouro-Gnao L, Levi A, Snow S, Miedzik A, Rombouts K*, Hughes D* (2019). A Microphysiological System for Studying Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis. Hepatology Communication. 2019 Nov 13;4(1):77-91. eCollection 2020 Jan. (*Contributed equally)

  1. Mazza G, Telese A, Al-Akkad W, Frenguelli L, Levi A ... Hall AR, Godovac-Zimmermann J, Luong TV, De Coppi P, Pinzani M, Rombouts K (2019). Cirrhotic Human Liver Extracellular Matrix 3D Scaffolds Promote Smad-Dependent TGF-β1 Epithelial Mesenchymal Transition. Cells. 2019 Dec 28;9(1). pii: E83.

  2. Laskaratos FM, Mandair D, Hall A, Alexander S, von Stempel C, Bretherton J, Luong T, Watkins J, Ogunbiyi O, Rombouts K, Caplin M, Toumpanakis C (2020). Clinicopathological correlations of mesenteric fibrosis and evaluation of a novel biomarker for fibrosis detection in small bowel neuroendocrine neoplasms. Endocrine. 2020 Mar;67(3):718-726.

  3. De Chiara F, Thomsen KL, Habtesion A ... Hall A, Andreola F, Paish HL, Reed LH, Watson AA, Leslie J, Oakley F, Rombouts K, et al (2020). Ammonia Scavenging Prevents Progression of Fibrosis in Experimental Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. Hepatology. 2020 Mar;71(3):874-892.

  4. Giuffrida P, Curti M, Al-Akkad W, Biel C, Crowley C, Frenguelli L, Telese A, Hall A ... Pinzani M, Di Sabatino A, *Rombouts K, *Mazza G (2019). Decellularized Human Gut as a Natural 3D Platform for Research in Intestinal Fibrosis. Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2019 Oct 18;25(11):1740-1750. (*Contributed equally.)

  5. Marrone G, De Chiara F, Böttcher K, Levi A, Dhar D, Longato L, Mazza G, Zhang ZZ, Marrali M, Fernández-Iglesias A, Hall A, Luong TV, Viollet B, Pinzani M, Rombouts K (2018). The adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase-vacuolar adenosine triphosphatase-pH axis: A key regulator of the profibrogenic phenotype of human hepatic stellate cells. Hepatology. 2018 Sep;68(3):1140-1153.

  6. Böttcher K, Rombouts K, Saffioti F, Roccarina D, Rosselli M, Hall A, Luong TV, Tsochatzis EA, Thorburn D, Pinzani M (2018). MAIT cells are chronically activated in patients with autoimmune liver disease and promote profibrogenic hepatic stellate cell activation. Hepatology. 2018 Jul;68(1):172-186.

  7. Mazza G, Al-Akkad W, Telese A, Longato L, Urbani L, Robinson B, Hall A ... Rombouts K, Pinzani M (2017). Rapid production of human liver scaffolds for functional tissue engineering by high shear stress oscillation-decellularization. Scientific Report. 2017 Jul 17;7(1):5534. PubMed PMID: 28717194

  8. Carloni V, Lulli M, Madiai S, Mello T, Hall A, Luong TV, Pinzani M, *Rombouts K, *Galli A (2017). CHK2 overexpression and mislocalisation within mitotic structures enhances chromosomal instability and hepatocellular carcinoma progression. Gut. 2018 Feb;67(2):348-361.

  9. Longato L, Andreola F, Davies SS, Roberts JL, Fusai G, Pinzani M, Moore K, Rombouts K (2017). Reactive gamma-ketoaldehydes as novel activators of hepatic stellate cells in vitro. Free Radic Biol Med. 2017 Jan;102:162-173.

  10. Jalan R, De Chiara F, Balasubramaniyan V, Andreola F, Khetan V, Malago M, Pinzani M, Mookerjee RP, Rombouts K (2016). Ammonia produces pathological changes in human hepatic stellate cells and is a target for therapy of portal hypertension. Journal of Hepatology. 2016 Apr;64(4):823-33.

Funding and partnerships

Logo for European Crohn's and Colitis Organisation (ECCO)

European Crohn's and Colitis Organisation

Logo for Neuroendocrine Tumour Research Foundation. NET in cyan, with microscope wrapped through the N

Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation

Logo for NIHR | University College London Hospitals Biomedical Research Centre

NIHR UCL Hospitals BRC

Logo for UKRI Innovate UK (navy / pink)

Technology Strategy Board (Innovative UK)

Royal Free Charity logo

Royal Free Charity

Logo for the Fiorina Foundation, part of the Royal Free Charity. A coastal scene.

Fiorina Foundation

Logo for CN Bio Innovations

Industrial Partners: CNBio Innovations

Logo for DefiniGEN Disease Model Innovation

Industrial Partners: DefiniGEN Ltd

Related programmes

Our members contribute to the MBBS, iBSc, BSc and master’s degrees within the Division of Medicine. We provide BSc and MSc/MRes research project supervision. We also have an established track record in providing high-quality training to PhD students interested in basic, translational, and clinical research in the areas of liver, pancreas, and biliary diseases.

Interested in joining us?

Researchers: We welcome prospective applications from talented postdoctoral candidates seeking to obtain their own funding. To discuss potential opportunities, please contact Prof. Krista Rombouts (k.rombouts@ucl.ac.uk). Please include the following documents and information:

  • CV
  • Short description of the research questions you would like to address (no more than half an A4 page)
  • Funding scheme(s) you would like to apply for and deadline(s) for submission.

Students: If you have a good academic record, are interested in a career in biological science or academic medicine and would like to discuss opportunities in ILDH, please contact the Principal Investigator or Senior Research Associate whose research area most interests you.

Contact details


Division of Medicine, Institute for Liver and Digestive Health  
UCL Medical School
Upper 3rd Floor Royal Free Hospital