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Title:
NATURAL COMPOUNDS AND FIBROSIS
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2018/141678
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
The present invention relates to an inhibitor of miR-671-5p for use in a method of preventing or treating fibrosis. Further, the present invention encompasses a kit comprising said inhibitor of miR-671-5p. The present invention also relates to an in vitro method for identifying a compound for preventing or treating fibrosis.

Inventors:
THUM THOMAS (DE)
SCHIMMEL KATHARINA (DE)
DO QUOC-TUAN (FR)
BERNARD PHILIPPE (FR)
Application Number:
EP2018/052096
Publication Date:
August 09, 2018
Filing Date:
January 29, 2018
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
MEDIZINISCHE HOCHSCHULE HANNOVER MHH (DE)
GREENPHARMA S A S (FR)
International Classes:
A61K31/395; A61K31/401; A61K31/4741; A61K31/585; A61K31/7004; A61P9/00
Domestic Patent References:
WO2002002123A12002-01-10
WO2009105234A22009-08-27
WO2003099011A12003-12-04
WO2016028753A12016-02-25
WO2017136515A12017-08-10
WO2013000286A12013-01-03
Foreign References:
CN100368022C2008-02-13
Other References:
CHRISTIAN SCHULTE ET AL: "microRNAs in cardiovascular disease - clinical application", CLIN CHEM LAB MED, vol. 55, 3 December 2016 (2016-12-03), pages 687 - 704, XP055410015, DOI: 10.1515/cclm-2016-0576
CHRISTIAN SCHULTE: "Diagnostic and prognostic value of circulating microRNAs in heart failure with preserved and reduced ejection fraction", WORLD JOURNAL OF CARDIOLOGY, vol. 7, no. 12, 1 January 2015 (2015-01-01), pages 843 - 860, XP055331278, ISSN: 1949-8462, DOI: 10.4330/wjc.v7.i12.843
WONG L L ET AL: "Circulating microRNAs in heart failure with reduced and preserved left ventricular ejection fraction", EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF HEART FAILURE, OXFORD UNIV. PRESS, UK, vol. 17, no. 4, 1 April 2015 (2015-04-01), pages 393 - 404, XP002740834, ISSN: 1879-0844, [retrieved on 20150123], DOI: 10.1002/EJHF.223
STEVEN O'REILLY: "MicroRNAs in fibrosis: opportunities and challenges", ARTHRITIS RESEARCH & THERAPY, vol. 18, no. 1, 13 January 2016 (2016-01-13), XP055410726, DOI: 10.1186/s13075-016-0929-x
BIRBRAIR A; ZHANG T; FILES D C; MANNAVA S; SMITH T; WANG Z; MESSI ML; MINTZ A; DELBONO O: "Type-1 pericytes accumulate after tissue injury and produce collagen in an organ-dependent manner", STEM CELL RESEARCH & THERAPY, vol. 5, no. 6, 2014, pages 122, XP021207850, DOI: doi:10.1186/scrt512
GROLLMANN A: "Inhibitors of protein biosynthesis", THE JOURNAL OF BIOLOGICAL CHEMISTRY, vol. 242, no. 13, 10 July 1967 (1967-07-10), pages 3226 - 3233
GUO Y; WANG Y; CAO L; WANG P; QING J; ZHENG Q; SHANG L; YIN Z; SUN Y: "A conserved inhibitory mechanism of a Lycorine derivative against enterovirus and hepatitis C virus", ANTIMICROBIAL AGENTS AND CHEMOTHERAPY, vol. 60, no. 2, 2016, pages 913 - 924
MURAKAMI Y; TOYODA H; TANAHASHI T; TANAKA J; KUMADA T; YOSHIOKA Y; KOSAKA N; OCHIYA T; TAGUCHI Y-H: "Comprehensive miRNA expression analysis in peripheral blood can diagnose liver disease", PLOS ONE, vol. 7, no. 10, 2012, pages e48366, XP002742562, DOI: doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0048366
NATHAN M; YING LC; PIERRE C; DAVID B; JOAO L: "Assessment of Myocardial Fibrosis with Cardiac Magnetic Resonance", JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN COLLEGE OF CARDIOLOGY, vol. 57, no. 8, 2011, pages 891 - 903
NEARY; WATSON; BAUGH: "Epigenetics and the overheating wound: the role of DNA methylation in fibrosis", FIBROGENESIS & TISSUE REPAIR, vol. 8, no. 1, 2015
O'REILLY S: "MicroRNAs in fibrosis: opportunities and challenges", ARTHRITIS RESEARCH & THERAPY, vol. 18, 2016, pages 11, XP055410726, DOI: doi:10.1186/s13075-016-0929-x
PRASSAS I; DIAMANDIS EP: "Novel therapeutic applications of cardiac glycosides", NATURE REVIEW, vol. 7, 2008, pages 926 - 935
RAJASEKARAN S; RAJAGURU P; SUDHAKAR GANDHI PS: "MicroRNAs as potential targets for progressive pulmonary fibrosis", FRONTIERS IN PHARMACOLOGY, vol. 6, 2015, pages 254
SCHULTE TW; AKINAGA S; SOGA S; SULLIVAN W; STENSGARD B; TOFT D; NECKERS IM: "Antibiotic radicicol binds to the N-terminal domain of Hsp90 and shares important biologic activities with geldanamycin", CELL STRESS & CHAPERONES, vol. 3, no. 2, 1998, pages 100 - 108, XP000901975, DOI: doi:10.1379/1466-1268(1998)003<0100:ARBTTN>2.3.CO;2
SCHULTE C; WESTERMANN D; BLANKENBERG S; ZELLER T: "Diagnostic and prognostic value of circulating microRNAs in heart failure with preserved and reduced ejection fraction", WORLD J CARDIOL, vol. 7, no. 12, 26 December 2015 (2015-12-26), pages 843 - 860, XP055331278, DOI: doi:10.4330/wjc.v7.i12.843
THUM T: "Noncoding RNAs and myocardial fibrosis", NATURE REVIEWS CARDIOLOGY, vol. 11, 2014, pages 655 - 663
VEGTER EL; MEER VAN DER P; WINDT DE LJ; PINTO YM; VOORS AA: "European Journal of Heart Failure", 2016, EUROPEAN SOCIETY OF CARDIOLOGY, article "MicroRNAs in heart failure: from biomarker to target for therapy"
WANG J; HUANG W; XU R; NIE Y; CAO X; MENG J; XU X; HU S; ZHENG Z: "MicroRNA-24 regulates cardiac fibrosis after myocardial infarction", J. CELL. MOL. MED., vol. 16, no. 9, 2012, pages 2150 - 2160
WANG P; YUAN HH; ZHANG X; LI YP; SHANG LQ; YIN Z: "Novel Lycorine derivatives as anticancer agents: Synthesis and in vitro biological evaluation", MOLECULES, vol. 19, 2014, pages 2469 - 2480
WILSON M; WYNN T: "Pulmonary fibrosis: pathogenesis, etiology and regulation", MUCOSAL IMMUNOLOGY, vol. 2, no. 2, 2009, pages 103 - 121
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
WEINZIERL, Gerhard et al. (DE)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

1 . An inhibitor of miR-671-5p for use in a method of preventing or treating fibrosis, wherein the inhibitor is selected from the group consisting of Lycorine, Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, and Anisomycin, as well as salts, analogs and derivatives thereof.

2. The inhibitor for the use of claim 1 , wherein the analogs can be selected from the following compounds:

BA7 BA8 BA9

BA22 BA23 BA24

GDA2

GDA1

GDA5 GDA6

GD \4

GDA4

GDA2 GDA3

GDA10 GDA11 GDA12

GDA17

GDA16 GDA6

GDA28 GDA29 GDA30

GDA34 GDA35 GDA36

GDA37 GDA38 GDA39

GDA40 GDA41 GDA22

AA1 AA2 AA3

AAA AA5 AA6

AAU AA13 AAU

Ġ GA8

GA13

3. The inhibitor for the use of claim 1 or 2, wherein fibrosis can be selected from cardiac fibrosis, lung fibrosis, liver fibrosis, kidney fibrosis, gastrointestinal fibrosis, skeletal muscle fibrosis, systemic sclerosis, multifocal fibrosclerosis, sclerodermatous graft- versus-host disease (GVHD) in bone marrow transplantation recipients, nephrogenic systemic fibrosis or dermal fibrosis.

4. The inhibitor for the use of claim 3, wherein fibrosis is cardiac fibrosis, lung fibrosis or kidney fibrosis.

5. The inhibitor for the use of any one of the preceding claims, wherein said use comprises administering the inhibitor every other day for a time period of two weeks, three weeks, four weeks, five weeks or longer, preferably for two consecutive weeks.

6. The inhibitor for the use of claim 5, wherein said administration of the inhibitor is performed by injections or by infusions.

7. The inhibitor for the use of any one of claims 5 or 6, wherein said administration of the inhibitor is performed intraperitoneally, intravenously, subcutaneously, intramuscularly or orally.

8. A kit comprising the inhibitor of mi -671-5p according to any one of claims 1 -7.

9. An in vitro method for identifying a compound for preventing or treating fibrosis comprising:

a) measuring the amount of miR-671-5p in cells undergoing fibrosis;

b) contacting the cells undergoing fibrosis with a test compound; and

c) comparing the amount of miR-671-5p in said fibrotic cells after step b) with the amount of miR-671 -5p measured in step a);

d) wherein a decrease in miR-671-5p levels indicates that the test compound is a compound for preventing or treating fibrosis.

10. The in vitro method of claim 9, wherein the amount of the test compound per administration is at least 0.5 μΜ, 1 μΜ, 2 μΜ, 3 μΜ, 4 μΜ, 5 μΜ, 6 μΜ, 7 μΜ, 8 μΜ, 9 μΜ, or at least 10 μΜ.

1 1 . The in vitro method of any one of claims 9 or 10, wherein the compound is a natural compound, a synthetic compound or a hemisynthetic compound.

12. The in vitro method of claim 1 1 , wherein the test compound is selected from the group consisting of Lycorine, Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Anisomycin and Geldanamycin, as well as salts, analogs and derivatives thereof.

13. The in vitro method of claim 12, wherein the analogs can be selected from the compounds according to claim 2.

14. The in vitro method of any one of claims 9 to 13, wherein fibrosis can be selected from cardiac fibrosis, lung fibrosis, liver fibrosis, kidney fibrosis, gastrointestinal fibrosis, skeletal muscle fibrosis, systemic sclerosis, multifocal fibrosclerosis, sclerodermatous graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) in bone marrow transplantation recipients, nephrogenic systemic fibrosis or dermal fibrosis.

15. The in vitro method of any one of claims 9 to 14, wherein the cells undergoing fibrosis are cardiac cells, lung cells, liver cells, kidney cells, intestinal cells, skeletal muscle cells or dermal cells.

16. The in vitro method of any one of claims 9 to 15, wherein the cells undergoing fibrosis are human cardiac fibroblasts (HCFs), pulmonary fibroblasts or renal fibroblasts.

Description:
Natural Compounds and Fibrosis

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

[1] The present invention relates to a compound for use in a method for preventing or treating fibrosis as well as a kit comprising the compound. The present invention also relates to an in vitro method for identifying a compound for preventing or treating fibrosis.

BACKGROUND

[2] Fibrosis is the formation of excess fibrous connective tissue in an organ or tissue in a reparative or reactive process (Birbrair et al. 2014), which can destroy the architecture and function of the underlying organ or tissue. During fibrosis, a pathological accumulation of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins occurs resulting in scarring and thickening of the affected tissue (Neary et al. 2015). Fibrosis can occur in many tissues within the body and is divided into organ-specific fibrosis, such as cardiac fibrosis, lung fibrosis or kidney fibrosis, and systemic fibrosis.

[3] Basically, fibrosis can be considered an exaggerated wound healing response which interferes with normal organ function (Neary et al. 2015).

[4] A normal wound-healing involves the three distinct phases of injury, inflammation and repair: During the first phase many agents, including environmental particles, allergens, infectious agents, chemotherapy and radiation are responsible for a disruption of epithelial and endothelial cells resulting in an anti-fibrinolytic cascade. Next, the phase of inflammation is initiated by circulating inflammatory cells and fibrocytes, which are recruited to the site of injury through chemokine gradients, supplying fibroblast-activating cytokines and growth factors. Neovascularization provides access to damaged areas and a steady stream of inflammatory, anti-inflammatory and phagocytic cells. The last phase of repair includes the fibroblasts contracting and decreasing the size of the wound. In the last phase, inflammatory cells undergo apoptosis, terminating collagen deposition and are cleared by phagocytic cells. Epithelial and endothelial cells are replaced and tissue architecture is restored.

[5] For successful wound healing as described above, a regulated response is maintained through negative feedback loops and a balance of regenerative processes. Normal healing can be converted into a fibrotic cascade due to imbalances in the healing process, such as an excessive inflammation and the production of inflammatory and fibroblast-activating cytokines. The recruitment of fibroblasts and increased frequency of a-SMA+ cells at the site of injury can result in too much collagen deposition, which in turn leads to fibrosis. There is thus a need in the art to slow down the progression of fibrosis (Wilson and Wynn 2009).

[6] As mentioned above, one example of fibrosis is cardiac fibrosis (CF) which is involved in heart failure (HF), which in turn is among the leading causes of death in the industrialized countries. Cardiac fibrosis is characterized by an increase in proliferation rates of resident cardiac fibroblasts in the cardiac muscle, excessive matrix deposition, including collagen deposition, or both. Normally, fibroblasts secrete collagen, but if this process is over-activated it may cause abnormal thickening and loss of flexibility of the cardiac muscle. This leads to a destruction of physiological tissue architecture and progressive organ dysfunction, ultimately resulting in heart failure (Thum 2014). As CF correlates with a higher long-term mortality and persists in patients even when medicated following the official guidelines for HF treatment, it is indispensable to apply a treatment focusing on anti-fibrotic therapeutic strategies in addition to treating or preventing heart failure.

[7] One of the most common histological features of the heart failure is myocardial fibrosis, a specific fibrosis with various pathophysiological mechanisms. Myocardial fibrosis is a complex process that involves each cellular component of the myocardial tissue. The fibrillar collagen network is in intimate contact with all the different cell-types of the myocardium and plays a critical role in the maintenance of ventricular shape, size and function. Myocardial fibroblasts increase the production of collagen and other extracellular matrix components resulting in ventricular systolic function, abnormal cardiac remodeling and increased ventricular stiffness Thus, myocardial fibrosis is defined by a significant increase in the collagen volume fraction (CVF) of myocardial tissue (Nathan et al. 201 1 ).

[8] Fibrosis in general can be considered an important cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide and there are currently no acceptable treatments for this particular disease (O'Reilly 2016). MicroRNAs (short: miRNAs) may be associated with various types of fibrosis and may be useful as disease-specific biomarkers. In addition, miRNAs are known as powerful regulators of posttranscriptional gene expression which play an important role in pathophysiological processes. MiRNAs have been studied since they were discovered more than two decades ago. MiRNAs are small, non-coding RNAs that mediate mRNA cleavage, translational repression or mRNA destabilization by partial complementary binding to the 3' untranslated region in target transcription. Further, miRNAs are small single strand RNAs highly conserved during the evolution and their length is generally around 22-25 nucleotides (O'Reilly 2016). Compared to small interfering RNA (siRNA), miRNA mediate their effects preferably through imperfect base pairing with sequences in the 3' untranslated region (UTR) of the targeted mRNA. This particular region in the miRNA which is important for repression of the target mRNA is called "seed region". Due to the imperfect binding of miRNAs to their target, one miRNA can regulate many genes. Specifically, miRNAs are transcribed by RNA polymerase II as part of capped and polyadenylated primary transcripts (pri-miRNAs) that can be either protein-coding or non- coding. Further, the primary transcript is cleaved by the Drosha ribonuclease III enzyme to produce an approximately 70-nt stem-loop precursor miRNA (pre-miRNA), which is further cleaved by the cytoplasmic Dicer ribonuclease to generate the mature miRNA and antisense miRNA star (miRNA*) products. The mature miRNA is incorporated into a RNA-induced silencing complex (RISC), which recognizes target mRNAs through imperfect base pairing with the miRNA and most commonly results in translational inhibition or destabilization of the target imRNA. Thus, targeting a specific miRNA can result in normalizing a wide range of deregulated genes, e.g. involved in cardiac fibrosis.

[9] In particular, miRNAs are quantitatively modified in particular diseases entities such as cardiovascular disease, especially in the field of heart failure (Schulte et al. 2015) or have been implicated in the progression of liver fibrosis (Murakami et al. 2012). Further, miRNAs have emerged as a major area of biomedical research as markers for pulmonary fibrosis (Rajasekaran et al. 2015). Additionally, studies have shown that certain specific miRNAs are differentially expressed in cardiac fibrosis (Wang et al. 2012). However, despite the known differential expression of miRNAs in the literature, no specific compounds for inhibition of miRNAs are known.

[10] Since therapeutic treatments for fibrosis are currently not known (O'Reilly 2016), it is of extreme importance to develop new pharmaceutical compounds for fibrosis, in particular cardiac fibrosis.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[11] The object of the present invention is to provide a compound for use in a method of preventing or treating fibrosis.

[12] Specifically, it was found that specific miRNAs are upregulated in fibrosis. One of these miRNAs is miR-671 -5p. The inhibition of miR-671 -5p is a promising starting point for the treatment of fibrosis, in particular cardiac fibrosis.

[13] The present invention thus encompasses an inhibitor of miR-671 -5p for use in a method of preventing or treating fibrosis.

[14] The inhibitor can be selected from the group consisting of Lycorine, Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Anisomycin and Geldanamycin, as well as salts, analogs and derivatives thereof.

[15] The present invention further provides said inhibitor for use in the treatment or prevention of fibrosis, wherein fibrosis can be selected from cardiac fibrosis, lung fibrosis, liver fibrosis, kidney fibrosis, gastrointestinal fibrosis, skeletal muscle fibrosis, systemic sclerosis, multifocal fibrosclerosis, sclerodermatous graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) in bone marrow transplantation recipients, nephrogenic systemic fibrosis or dermal fibrosis. In a preferred embodiment, the fibrosis is cardiac fibrosis, lung fibrosis or kidney fibrosis.

[16] The invention also encompasses said inhibitor for use in a method of preventing or treating fibrosis, wherein said use comprises administering the inhibitor every other day for a time period of two weeks, three weeks, four weeks, five weeks or longer, preferably for two consecutive weeks.

[17] In addition, the present invention provides for the administration of the inhibitor by injections or by infusions.

[18] The administration of the inhibitor can be performed intraperitoneally, intravenously, subcutaneously, intramuscularly or orally.

[19] Also described is a kit comprising said inhibitor of miR-671-5p.

[20] The present invention further provides an in vitro method for identifying a compound for preventing or treating fibrosis comprising: a) measuring the amount of miR-671-5p in cells undergoing fibrosis; b) contacting the cells undergoing fibrosis with a test compound; and c) comparing the amount of miR-671-5p in said fibrotic cells after step b) with the amount of miR- 671 -5p measured in step a); and d) wherein a decrease in miR-671-5p levels indicates that the test compound is a compound for preventing or treating fibrosis.

[21] The present invention contemplates said in vitro method, wherein the amount of the test compound per administration is at least 0.5 μΜ, 1 μΜ, 2 μΜ, 3 μΜ, 4 μΜ, 5 μΜ, 6 μΜ, 7 μΜ, 8 μΜ, 9 μΜ, or at least 10 μΜ.

[22] The invention also provides said in vitro method, wherein the compound is a natural compound, a synthetic compound or a hemisynthetic compound.

[23] The invention further contemplates said in vitro method, wherein the test compound is selected from the group consisting of Lycorine, Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Anisomycin and Geldanamycin, as well as salts, analogs and derivatives thereof.

[24] Additionally, said in vitro method is provided, wherein fibrosis can be selected from cardiac fibrosis, lung fibrosis, liver fibrosis, kidney fibrosis, gastrointestinal fibrosis, skeletal muscle fibrosis, systemic sclerosis, multifocal fibrosclerosis, sclerodermatous graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) in bone marrow transplantation recipients, nephrogenic systemic fibrosis or dermal fibrosis.

[25] The present invention encompasses said in vitro method, wherein the cells undergoing fibrosis are cardiac cells, lung cells, liver cells, kidney cells, intestinal cells, skeletal muscle cells or dermal cells. In a preferred embodiment, the cells undergoing fibrosis are human cardiac fibroblasts (HCFs), pulmonary fibroblasts or renal fibroblasts. BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

[26] Fig. 1 : Identification of anti-fibrotic natural compounds Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Lycorine, Anisomycin and Geldanamycin in vitro.

Functional screen of 480 nature-derived substances in vitro in primary human cardiac fibroblasts (HCFs) uncovers compounds inhibiting proliferation of HCFs. Dose-dependent inhibitory effects of Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Lycorine, Anisomycin and Geldanamycin on proliferation of primary HCFs. This is described in Example 1.

[27] Fig. 2: In vitro testing of Lycorine.

Anti-fibrotic Lycorine potently and specifically acts on HCFs in vitro: A) Schematic view of the chemical structure of the alkaloid Lycorine and picture of a member of the amaryllis species producing Lycorine. B) Dose-dependent (1 μΜ, 5μΜ and 10μΜ) inhibitory effects of Lycorine on proliferation of primary HCFs are fibroblast-specific as evidenced by no impact of the same concentrations of Lycorine on proliferation of the cardiomyocyte cell line HL-1 measured via BrdU-ELISA, DMSO refers as control. C) Lycorine does not induce cell death in primary HCFs after Annexin-7AAD-staining. D) Lycorine decreases expression levels of the extracellular matrix component Collagen1 a1 in primary HCFs as shown in a representative Western Blot (normalized to GAPDH), DMSO refers as control. Data are depicted as the average of 3 independent measurements performed in triplicates and represented as meantSEM. *P<0.05; **P<0.01 ; ***P<0.001 ; ****P<0.0001 . This is described in Example 2.

[28] Fig 3: In vitro testing of Bufalin.

Anti-fibrotic Bufalin potently and specifically acts on HCFs in vitro: A) Schematic view of the chemical structure of the cardiac glycoside Bufalin and picture of a toad producing Bufalin. B) Dose-dependent (0.1 μΜ, 1 μΜ and 10μΜ) inhibitory effects of Bufalin on proliferation of primary HCFs are fibroblast-specific as evidenced by no impact of the same concentrations of Bufalin on proliferation of the cardiomyocyte cell line HL-1 measured via BrdU-ELISA, DMSO refers as control. C) Bufalin does not induce cell death in primary HCFs after Annexin-7AAD-staining. D) Bufalin decreases expression levels of the extracellular matrix component Collagen1 a1 in primary HCFs as shown in a representative Western Blot (normalized to GAPDH), DMSO refers as control. Data are depicted as the average of 3 independent measurements performed in triplicates and represented as meaniSEM. *P<0.05; **P<0.01 ; ***P<0.001 ; ****P<0.0001. This is described in Example 2. [29] Fig. 4: In vitro testing of Gitoxigenin.

Anti-fibrotic Gitoxigenin potently and specifically acts on HCFs in vitro: A) Schematic view of the chemical structure of the cardiac glycoside Gitoxigenin and picture of a digitalis producing Gitoxigenin. B) Dose-dependent (0.1 μΜ, 1 μΜ and 10μΜ) inhibitory effects of digitalis producing Gitoxigenin on proliferation of primary HCFs are fibroblast-specific as evidenced by no impact of the same concentrations of Gitoxigenin on proliferation of the cardiomyocyte cell line HL-1 measured via BrdU-ELISA, DMSO refers as control. C) Gitoxigenin does not induce cell death in primary HCFs after Annexin-7AAD-staining. D) Gitoxigenin decreases expression levels of the extracellular matrix component Collagen1 a1 in primary HCFs as shown in a representative Western Blot (normalized to GAPDH), DMSO refers as control. Data are depicted as the average of 3 independent measurements performed in triplicates and represented as meaniSEM. *P<0.05; **P<0.01 ; ***P<0.001 ; ****P<0.0001 . This is described in Example 2.

[30] Fig. 5: In vitro testing of Anisomycin.

Anti-fibrotic Anisomycin potently and specifically acts on HCFs in vitro: A) Schematic view of the chemical structure of the cardiac glycoside Anisomycin and picture of Streptomyces griseolus producing Anisomycin. B) Dose-dependent (0,1 μΜ, 1 μΜ and 10μΜ) inhibitory effects of digitalis producing Anisomycin on proliferation of primary HCFs are fibroblast-specific as evidenced by no impact of the same concentrations of Anisomycin on proliferation of the cardiomyocyte cell line HL-1 measured via BrdU-ELISA, DMSO refers as control. C) Anisomycin does not induce cell death in primary HCFs after Annexin-7AAD-staining. D) Anisomycin decreases expression levels of the extracellular matrix component Collagen1 a1 in primary HCFs as shown in a representative Western Blot (normalized to GAPDH), DMSO refers as control. Data are depicted as the average of 3 independent measurements performed in triplicates and represented as meantSEM. *P<0.05; **P<0.01 ; ***P<0.001 ; ****P<0.0001 . This is described in Example 2.

[31] Fig. 6: Murine model of Angiotensin ll-induced cardiac fibrotic disease.

Schematic overview of the in vivo verification of the anti-fibrotic potential of Lycorine, Bufalin, Gitoxigenin and Anisomycin. This is described in Example 3.

[32] Fig. 7: Bufalin and Lycorine testing on cardiac function.

Bufalin and Lycorine significantly ameliorate cardiac function in a murine model of angiotensin ll-induced cardiac fibrotic disease: Bufalin (A) and Lycorine (B) significantly improve both global and diastolic function of the heart as evidenced by a decrease of the Myocardial Performance Index (MPI) as well as a reduction of the isovolumetric relaxation time (IVRT) and an increase in E to A peak ratio (E/A), respectively. DMSO refers as control. Data are represented as mean±SEM. *P<0.05; **P<0.01 ; ***P<0.001 ; ****P<0.0001 . This is described in Example 4.

[33] Fig. 8: Bufalin and Lycorine testing on cardiac fibrosis.

Bufalin and Lycorine ameliorate cardiac fibrosis in a murine model of angiotensin ll-induced cardiac fibrotic disease: Bufalin (A) and Lycorine (B) prevent fibrosis-development as shown by a prominent reduction of collagen deposition in representative images of histological sections of the hearts as well as the quantification of picrosirius-stained areas. DMSO refers as control. Data are represented as meaniSEM. *P<0.05; **P<0.01 ; ***P<0.001 ; ****P<0.0001. This is described in Example 4.

[34] Fig. 9: Anisomycin and Gitoxigenin testing on cardiac function.

Anisomycin and Gitoxigenin significantly ameliorate cardiac function in a murine model of angiotensin ll-induced cardiac fibrotic disease: Anisomycin (A) and Gitoxigenin (B) significantly improve both global and diastolic function of the heart as evidenced by a decrease of the Myocardial Performance Index (MPI) as well as a reduction of the isovolumetric relaxation time (IVRT) and an increase in E to A peak ratio (E/A), respectively. DMSO refers as control. Data are represented as meantSEM. *P<0.05; **P<0.01 ; ***P<0.001 ; ****P<0.0001 . This is described in Example 4.

[35] Fig. 10: Anisomycin and Gitoxigenin testing on cardiac fibrosis.

Anisomycin and Gitoxigenin ameliorate cardiac fibrosis in a murine model of angiotensin ll- induced cardiac fibrotic disease: Anisomycin (A) and Gitoxigenin (B) prevent fibrosis- development as shown by a prominent reduction of collagen deposition in representative images of histological sections of the hearts as well as the quantification of picrosirius-stained areas. DMSO refers as control. Data are represented as meantSEM. *P<0.05; **P<0.01 ; ***P<0.001 ; ****P<0.0001. This is described in Example 4.

[36] Fig. 11 : Therapeutic murine model of hypertension-induced diastolic dysfunction.

Schematic overview of the therapeutic in vivo study of Lycorine and Bufalin. This is described in Example 5.

[37] Fig. 12: Bufalin and Lycorine testing for cardiac fibrosis.

A) Bufalin and Lycorine prevent further development of cardiac fibrosis in established diastolic heart failure upon treatment as shown by a reduction of collagen deposition in representative images of histological sections of the hearts as well as the quantification of picrosirius-stained areas. Particularly Bufalin significantly improves both global and diastolic function of the heart as evidenced by a (B) decrease of the Myocardial Performance Index (MPI) as well as a (C) reduction of the isovolumetric relaxation time (IVRT) and an (D) increase in E to A peak ratio, respectively. DMSO refers as control. Data are represented as mean±SEM. *P<0.05; **P<0.01 ; ***P<0.001 ; ****P<0.0001. This is described in Example 6.

[38] Fig. 13: Bufalin and Lycorine recover left ventricular compliance of the murine heart upon angiotensin ll-infusion.

Bufalin and Lycorine reduce passive stiffness of the left ventricle induced by systemic hypertension, as evidenced by a significant reduction of the end-diastolic pressure-volume relationship (EDPVR) by Bufalin and Lycorine. DMSO refers as control. Data are represented as meaniSEM. *P<0.05; **P<0.01 ; ***P<0.001 ; ****P<0.0001. This is described in Example 7.

[39] Fig. 14: Bufalin accelerates tissue motion during diastole in a murine model of angiotensin ll-infusion.

Bufalin recovers the velocity of tissue motion in diastole (increased E' as compared to Angll solvent only control) decelerated upon angiotensin ll-infusion (decreased E' as compared to vehicle solvent only control) shown in the quantification and representative images of tissue Doppler imaging. DMSO refers as control. Data are represented as meantSEM. *P<0.05; **P<0.01 ; ***P<0.001 ; ****P<0.0001 . This is described in Example 8.

[40] Fig. 15: Bufalin recovers global longitudinal strain (GLS) in a murine model of angiotensin ll-induced cardiac fibrotic disease.

2-dimensional speckle-tracking strain echocardiography uncovered a significant reversal of the downshift of global longitudinal strain (GLS) of the heart caused by angiotensin ll-infusion upon treatment with Bufalin as shown both in representative images and quantification. DMSO refers as control. In accordance with the murine model for heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF), ejection fraction (EF) remained comparable in all tested groups. Data are represented as meaniSEM. *P<0.05; **P<0.01 ; ***P<0.001 ; ****P<0.0001. This is described in Example 8.

[41] Fig. 16: High-throughput miRNA sequencing in human cardiac fibroblasts.

Bufalin impacts on the miRNA expression of HCFs in vitro and changes the miRNA-signature of HCFs. Some miRNAs, in particular 33 miRNAs are downregulated (A) and some miRNAs (in particular 1 miRNAs) are upregulated (B) in HCFS after treatment with Bufalin compared to the control DSMO. A table of the top-30 significantly deregulated miRNAs is shown in (A). Data represent pooled triplicates from 3 independent experiments. This is described in Example 9. [42] Fig. 17: miRNA sequencing in human cardiac fibroblasts.

miR-671 -5p levels are significantly decreased by identified anti-fibrotic compounds in HCFs: Expression levels of miR-671 -5p are decreased in primary HCFs upon treatment with Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Lycorine, Anisomycin and Geldanamycin as compared to the DMSO-control. Downregulation of miR-671-5p (normalized to RNU48) by the respective compound was validated via qRT-PCR. Data are depicted as the average of 3 independent measurements performed in triplicates and represented as mean±SEM. *P<0.05; **P<0.01 ; ***P<0.001 ; ****P<0.0001. This is described in Example 10.

[43] Fig. 18: In vitro experiments on miRNA in human cardiac fibroblasts.

miR-671 -5p regulates fibrosis and inflammation in HCFs in vitro: A) Overexpression of miR-671 - 5p leads to activation of markers of fibrosis (a-Smooth Muscle Actin, a-SMA and Connective Tissue Growth Factor, CTGF) and inflammation (lnterleukin-6, IL-6 and lnterleukin-8, IL-8) in primary HCFs. B) Conversely, inhibition of miR-671 -5p leads to a prominent decrease in above mentioned markers of fibrosis and inflammation (normalized to 18S rRNA) in primary HCFs. Data are depicted as the average of 4 independent measurements performed in triplicates and represented as mean±SEM. *P<0.05; **P<0.01 ; ***P<0.001 ; ****P<0.0001 . This is described in Example 1 1.

[44] Fig. 19: Overexpression of miR-671 -5p in human cardiac fibroblasts.

Overexpression of miR-671 -5p enhances migration of HCFs both under control and under treatment conditions with Bufalin. Overexpression of miR-671-5p stimulates migration of primary HCFs both with and without treatment with anti-fibrotic Bufalin. Data are depicted as the average of 3 independent measurements performed in triplicates and represented as mean±SEM. *P<0.05; **P<0.01 ; ***P<0.001 ; ****P<0.0001. This is described in Example 1 1 .

[45] Fig. 20: In vivo study of miR-671 -5p levels in cardiac fibrosis.

miR-671 -5p levels change in cardiac fibrotic diseases. Expression of miR-671-5p is increased in various murine heart failure models (hypertension, pressure overload and allogenic heart transplantation). HF was induced in mice via (A) implantation of angiotensin II filled minipumps, (B) Transverse Aortic Constriction (TAC) or (C) allogenic transplantation of the hearts. D) miR- 671 -5p is activated in human hearts of aortic stenosis-patients. Increased levels of miR-671-5p (normalized to snoRNA-202 in murine and to RNU48 human heart tissue) were studied via qRT- PCR. Data are represented as mean±SEM. *P<0.05; **P<0.01 ; ***P<0.001 ; ****P<0.0001. This is described in Example 12. [46] Fig. 21 : In vitro studies of CDRIas as a direct target of miR-671-5p.

The circular RNA CDRI as is a direct target of miR-671 -5p: A) Predicted consequential pairing of CDRI as and miR-671-5p (www.targetscan.org/vert_71/) in humans. Divergent primers were used to specifically amplify the circular RNA, which is highly abundant in HCFs as represented by low CT-values. B) Circularity of CDRI as was evidenced by resistance to exonuclease treatment that was 10-times fold higher than the resistance of the linear transcript of GAPDH. C) Validation of miR-671 -5p targeting CDRI as by qRT-PCR (normalized to 18S rRNA) after overexpression of miR-671-5p in primary HCFs. Data are depicted as the average of 2-4 independent measurements performed in triplicates and represented as mean±SEM. *P<0.05; **P<0.01 ; ***P<0.001 ; ****P<0.0001 . This is described in Example 13.

[47] Fig. 22: Expression levels of circular RNA CDRIas in human cardiac fibroblasts.

The circular RNA CDRI as is increased after treatment with identified anti-fibrotic compounds in HCFs. Expression levels of CDRI as increase in primary HCFs upon treatment with Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Lycorine, Anisomycin and Geldanamycin as compared to the DMSO-control, following an opposite pattern as compared to miR-671-5p. The respective compound was validated via qRT-PCR (normalized to 18S rRNA). Data are depicted as the average of 3 independent measurements performed in triplicates and represented as mean ±SEM. *P<0.05; "PO.01 ; ***P<0.001 ; ****P<0.0001 . This is described in Example 14.

[48] Fig. 23: In vitro study of effect of miR-671-5p on CDR1 mRNA.

The CDR1 mRNA encoded on the opposite strand of CDRI as changes discordantly to miR- 671 -5p after treatment with identified anti-fibrotic compounds in HCFs. Expression levels of CDR1 mRNA change independently of miR-671-5p or CDRI as in primary HCFs upon treatment with Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Lycorine, Anisomycin and Geldanamycin as compared to the DMSO- control. Expression levels of CDR1 mRNA decrease in primary HCFs upon said treatment. The respective compound was validated via qRT-PCR (normalized to GAPDH). Data are depicted as the average of 3 independent measurements performed in triplicates and represented as mean ±SEM. *P<0.05; **P<0.01 ; ***P<0.001 ; ****P<0.0001. This is described in Example 15.

[49] Fig. 24: In vitro study of silencing of CDRI as.

CDRI as is an anti-fibrotic circular RNA: Strand-specific silencing of CDRI as via sisiRNA- chemistry leads to an increase in expression levels of the extracellular matrix component Collagen1 a1 in primary HCFs as shown in a representative Western Blot (normalized to GAPDH). Data are depicted as the average of 1 experiment performed in triplicates and represented as meaniSD. *P<0.05; **P<0.01 ; ***P<0.001 ; ****P<0.0001. This is described in Example 14. [50] Fig. 25: In vitro studies of Selenoprotein as a direct target of miR-671 -5p.

Selenoprotein P is another direct target of miR-671-5p: A) Predicted consequential pairing of Selenoprotein P target region and miR-671-5p (www.targetscan.org/vert_71/) in humans. B) Validation of miR-671-5p targeting Selenoprotein P assayed by luciferase activity and qRT-PCR (normalized to 18S rRNA) after overexpression of miR-671-5p. Data are depicted as the average of 2-3 independent measurements performed in triplicates and represented as mean±SEM. *P<0.05; **P<0.01 ; ***P<0.001 ; ****P<0.0001 . This is described in Example 16.

[51] Fig. 26: In vivo studies of Lycorine and Bufalin on liver or kidney.

Administration of Lycorine and Bufalin does not provoke any changes in plasma marker of kidney and liver damage in vivo: Toxicological assessment of Lycorine (A) and Bufalin (B) in a murine model of Angiotensin ll-induced HF shows no elevation of plasma marker of kidney and liver damage. Glutamate oxaloacetate transaminase (GOT), Glutamate pyruvate transaminase (GPT) as liver plasma markers and creatinine and urea as kidney markers. Data are represented as meaniSEM. *P<0.05; **P<0.01 ; ***P<0.001 ; ****P<0.0001 . This is described in Example 17.

[52] Fig. 27: In vivo studies of Anisomycin and Gitoxigenin on liver or kidney.

Administration of Anisomycin and Gitoxigenin does not provoke any changes in plasma marker of kidney and liver damage in vivo: Toxicological assessment of Anisomycin (A) and Gitoxigenin (B) in a murine model of Angiotensin ll-induced HF shows no elevation of plasma marker of kidney and liver damage. Glutamate oxaloacetate transaminase (GOT), Glutamate pyruvate transaminase (GPT) as liver plasma markers and creatinine and urea as kidney markers. Data are represented as mean±SEM. *P<0.05; **P<0.01 ; ***P<0.001 ; ****P<0.0001. This is described in Example 17.

[53] Fig. 28: In vivo studies of Lycorine and Bufalin on liver or kidney.

Administration of Bufalin and Lycorine does not provoke any changes in kidney and liver morphology in vivo: Toxicological assessment of Bufalin and Lycorine in a murine model of Angiotensin ll-induced HF does not induce necrosis, inflammation or any morphological changes in kidney (A) and liver (B), respectively. Fourteen days after the operation, kidneys and livers were subjected to histological assessment via Hematoxylin and Eosin (HE) and Periodic acid-Schiff (PAS) stain (n=2-4 per group). Representative image of each group is shown. This is described in Example 17. [54] Fig. 29: In vivo studies of Lycorine and Bufalin on liver or kidney (therapeutic approach).

Administration of Bufalin and Lycorine does not provoke any changes in kidney and liver morphology in vivo in mice: Toxicological assessment of Bufalin and Lycorine in the therapeutic approach using a murine model of hypertension-induced HF does not induce necrosis, inflammation or any morphological changes in kidney (A) and liver (B), respectively. Eight weeks after the operation, kidneys and livers were subjected to histological assessment via Hematoxylin and Eosin (HE) and Periodic acid-Schiff (PAS) stain (n=4 per group). Representative image of each group is shown. This is described in Example 18.

[55] Fig. 30: Evaluation of myocardial and plasma concentrations of Bufalin and Lycorine in vivo.

Bufalin and particularly Lycorine are effectively taken up by the heart, as evidenced by higher levels in (A) the myocardium as compared to (B) the plasma after injections at the respective effective doses. This is described in Example 19.

[56] Fig. 31 : Screening of chemical derivatives of Bufalin and Lycorine in vitro.

Effects of 26 chemical derivatives of Bufalin (derivatives 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 1 1 , 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18 and 25) and Lycorine (derivative 1 , 2, 4, 15, 19, 20, 21 , 22, 23, 24 and 26) (10μΜ) on the proliferation of human cardiac fibroblasts (HCFs). Solvent control refers to DMSO. This is described in Example 20.

[57] Fig. 32: Bufalin and analogs thereof.

A) Bufalin structure is illustrated. B) Structures of Bufalin analogs are depicted. Only aglycone analogs are shown in (B).

[58] Fig. 33: Gitoxigenin and analogs thereof.

A) Gitoxigenin structure is illustrated. B) Structures of Gitoxigenin analogs are depicted as well as structures of Digitoxigenin analogs. Only aglycone analogs are shown in (B).

[59] Fig. 34: Lycorine and analogs thereof.

A) Lycorine structure is illustrated. B) Structures of Lycorine analogs are depicted. [60] Fig. 35: Anisomycin and analogs thereof.

A) Anisomycin structure is illustrated. B) Structures of Anisomycin analogs are depicted. [61] Fig. 36: Geldanamycin and analogs thereof.

A) Geldanamycin structure is illustrated. B) Structures of Geldanamycin analogs are depicted.

[62] Fig. 37: Chemical derivatives of Lycorine.

Chemical derivatives of Lycorine are depicted herein.

[63] Fig. 38: Chemical derivatives of Bufalin.

Chemical derivatives of Bufalin are depicted herein.

[64] Fig. 39: In vitro assessment of Bufalin and Lycorine on non-cardiac fibroblasts.

Dose-dependency of proliferation-inhibitory effects of lycorine was evident (A) in the rat renal fibroblast cell line NRK49F, whereas bufalin potently inhibited the proliferation of (D) primary human pulmonary fibroblasts (HPFs). DMSO refers as control. Data are represented as meaniSEM. *P<0.05; **P<0.01 ; ***P<0.001 ; ****P<0.0001 . This is described in Example 21.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

[65] The object of the present invention is to provide a compound for use in a method of preventing or treating fibrosis.

[66] A functional screen of 480 natural compounds that were selected for a maximum of chemical diversity was performed in vitro in primary human cardiac fibroblasts (HCFs) to see which compounds led to an altered expression of miRNAs. Hits obtained in this screen were further tested for their capacity to decrease proliferation of HCFs in a dose-dependent manner as measured by BrdU-ELISA, yielding the five most successful compounds Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Lycorine, Anisomycin and Geldanamycin. Next, an in vivo mouse model of diastolic heart failure was used to test the compounds Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Lycorine, Anisomycin demonstrating that these compounds ameliorate cardiac fibrosis. For in vivo therapeutic approach using a mouse model, the focus was drawn to Bufalin and Lycorine. Further, Bufalin and Lycorine were also tested on pulmonary fibroblasts and renal fibroblasts demonstrating that those compounds also ameliorate lung and kidney fibrosis.

[67] Bufalin and Gitoxigenin are cardiac glycosides, Lycorine is an alkaloid and Anisomycin and Geldanamycin are antibiotics.

[68] According to Prassas and Diamandis (2008), cardiac glycosides play further potential therapeutic roles in various human diseases, such as cancer. Additionally, cardiac glycosides may also act as possible therapeutics in the context of ischaemic stroke. Data also reveal potential applications of these compounds for treating cystic fibrosis. Cardiac glycosides have been identified as a diverse family of naturally derived compounds capable of binding to and inhibiting Na+/K+-ATPase, which is a ubiquitous membrane protein using energy derived from ATP hydrolysis to perform the transport of potassium ions into the cell and on the other hand sodium ions out of the cell. An inhibition of said Na+/K+-ATPase increases the level of sodium ions in cardiac myocytes, leading to an increase of calcium level and cardiac contractile force.

[69] Bufalin itself belongs to the group of Bufadienolide and refers to a cardiotonic steroid isolated from the Chinese toad venom. It exhibits an antitumor effect against various malignancies. In vitro, Bufalin shows anti-proliferative and/or apoptotic effects of cancer cells in prostate or leukaemia cancer types (Prassas and Diamandis 2008).

[70] Gitoxigenin structurally belongs to the group of Cardenolides and is isolated from the foxglove Digitalis lanata. It was found that Gitoxigenin exhibits anticancer activities and was already tested in cancer cell lines of breast cancer indicating anti-proliferative effects. The "generic" scaffold of Gitoxigenin derived from Digitoxigenin, which is the more general compound in the literature and also shows anticancer effects, such as anti-proliferative effects in renal or myeloma cancer cell types (Prassas and Diamandis 2008). In Figures 32 and 33 analogs of Bufalin and Gitoxigenin, but also Digitoxigenin are illustrated. These figures only include aglycones, since the active forms are most likely the aglycones. Besides Bufalin, Gitoxigenin and Digitoxigenin analogs, stereoisomers of said analogs are disclosed in the present invention as well.

[71] Lycorine refers to the most abundant alkaloid isolated from Amaryllidaceae family of plants. Known in the art, Lycorine has promising anticancer activities, but also other diverse biological properties, such as antiplasmodial, antitrypanosomal, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and emetic properties. Further, Lycorine and its derivatives and analogs are also capable of inhibiting several virus species, including severe acute respiratory syndrome-associated coronavirus, herpes simplex virus and poliovirus (Guo et al. 2016 and Wang et al. 2014). The analog structures of Lycorine are illustrated in Figure 34. Besides analogs, stereoisomers of Lycorine analogs are disclosed in the present invention as well.

[72] According to Grollmann (1967) Anisomycin is an antibiotic which is isolated from Streptomyces griseolus and is able to inhibit eukaryotic protein synthesis. Protein synthesis as well as partially DNA synthesis is due to inhibition of peptidyl transferase or the 80S ribosome system.

[73] According to Schulte et al. (1998) Geldanamycin was identified as a benzoquinone ansamycin, a class of naturally occurring antibiotics and was originally discovered in the organism Streptomyces hygroscopicus. It acts as an inhibitor of the Heat Shock Protein Hsp90 by binding to the ATP/ADP binding site in the amino terminus of the protein that is specific of regulating the Hsp90 conformation. Hsp90 can only be bound by drugs exhibiting the benzoquinone ansamycin moiety. The analogs of Anisomycin and Geldanamycin are illustrated in Figures 35 and 36. Besides analogs, stereoisomers of Anisomycin and Geldanamycin analogs are disclosed in the present invention as well.

[74] As mentioned above, an in vitro method of identifying an anti-fibrotic compound was used in the present invention. First, a functional screen of 480 natural compounds was performed in vitro in primary human cardiac fibroblasts (HCFs) yielding the five most successful compounds Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Lycorine, Anisomycin and Geldanamycin. Then, HCFs were contacted with an effective amount of a compound selected from the group consisting of Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Lycorine, Anisomycin or Geldanamycin, wherein the amount of the test compound was from 0.05μΜ to 20μΜ for said compound. The effective amount of said compound is 0.05, 0.10, 0.15, 0.20, 0.25, 0.30, 0.35, 0.40, 0.45, 0.50, 0.55, 0.60, 0.65, 0.70, 0.75, 0.80, 0.85, 0.90, 0.95, 1.0, 1.5, 2.0, 2.5, 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, 4.5, 5.0, 5.5, 6.0, 6.5, 7.0, 7.5, 8.0, 8.5, 9.0, 9.5, 10.0, 10.5, 1 1 .0, 1 1.5, 12.0, 12.5, 13.0, 13.5, 14.0, 14.5, 15.0, 16.0, 17.0, 18.0, 19.0 and 20.0. The effective amount for said compound is from 0.1 μΜ to 10μΜ. Preferably, the effective amount is 0.1 μΜ, preferably 1 μΜ, more preferably 10μΜ for Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Anisomycin or Geldanamycin. For Lycorine, the preferred effective amount is 1 μΜ, preferably 5μΜ, more preferably 10μΜ. Said compounds with different concentrations were tested for their ability to decrease proliferation of HCFs. The most effective amount for each compound is 10μΜ (see Fig. 1 ). Further, the compounds, in particular Bufalin and Lycorine were tested on renal fibroblasts and pulmonary fibroblasts. It was shown, that Lycorine significantly inhibits proliferation of renal fibroblasts, but also of pulmonary fibroblasts. Additionally, Bufalin significantly inhibits only proliferation of pulmonary fibroblasts. Here, the most effective amount for Lycorine and Bufalin is 10μΜ (see Fig. 39).

[75] Second, it was found that the compound selected from Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Lycorine and Anisomycin does not exert its effect by inducing cell death confirmed by Annexin-7AAD- staining. Moreover, it was observed that expression levels of the extracellular matrix component Collagen1 a1 were lower under treatment conditions by quantitative real time PCR and Western Blot. Standard techniques known to the person skilled in the art were used for quantitative real time PCR, PCR and Western Blot.

[76] Additionally, no effect on proliferation of the cardiomyocyte cell line HL-1 could be detected, pointing towards a fibroblast-specific effect of said compounds (see Fig. 2-5).

[77] In addition to the findings above, the invention also provides a method of preventing or treating fibrosis, preferably cardiac fibrosis, lung fibrosis and/or kidney fibrosis, more preferably cardiac fibrosis, using at least one compound selected from the group comprising Lycorine,

Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Anisomycin, and Geldanamycin, as well as salts, analogs and derivatives thereof.

[78] For in vivo confirmation of the in vitro data, cardiac remodeling was induced in C57BL/6 mice via implantation of minipumps with Angiotensin II, a hormone that causes hypertension and cardiac remodeling, and said compounds were injected intraperitoneally every other day during two consecutive weeks (see Fig. 6). This technique for inducing cardiac remodeling is known to the person skilled in the art and can be performed in all non-human mammals.

[79] After induction of cardiac remodeling in a non-human mammal, an effective amount of said test compound was applied every other day for a time period of two weeks to said non- human mammal, optionally for two consecutive weeks. The administration of said compound can also be performed for three weeks, four weeks, five weeks, six weeks, seven weeks or eight weeks, over 2 months, three months, four months, five months or six months. The effective amount is above 0.005mg/kg, preferably from 0.005mg/kg to 20mg/kg. The effective amount for said compound is from 0.01 mg/kg to 10 mg/kg. The effective amount for Bufalin is from 0.1 mg/kg to 1 mg/kg, preferably 0.5mg/kg. The effective amount for Gitoxigenin is from 0.005mg/kg to 0.05 mg/kg, preferably 0.01 mg/kg. The effective amount for Lycorine is from 1 mg/kg to 10mg/kg, preferably 4.5mg/kg. The effective amount for Anisomycin is from 5mg/kg to 15mg/kg, preferably 10mg/kg.

[80] Those test compounds tested above also induce amelioration of heart function which was evidenced by echocardiographic assessment (see Fig. 7 and 9). Moreover, collagen staining in histological sections of the hearts revealed a prominent reduction of fibrosis- development upon treatment with said compound (see Fig. 8 and 10).

[81] Further, the experiments described in Example 17 show that administration of said compounds in the murine model of Angiotensin ll-induced HF did not provoke any changes in plasma marker of kidney and liver damage (see Fig. 26 and 27), nor in the morphology of the two organs after application of said compound (see Fig. 28 and 29). This provides first promising data of toxicological assessment of the inhibition of miRNA-671-5p for the treatment of fibrosis.

[82] Additionally, in vivo therapeutic studies were performed with the preferred compounds Lycorine and Bufalin (see Fig. 11 and Example 5). Those compounds, particularly Lycorine are effectively taken up by the heart evidenced by higher levels in the myocardium in comparison to the plasma after injection of the compounds (see Fig. 30).

[83] It was found that Bufalin and Lycorine tested as therapeutic agents prevent further development (progression) of cardiac fibrosis in diastolic heart failure in mice and upon treatment with those. Particularly, it was shown that Bufalin significantly improves both global and diastolic function of the heart (see Fig. 12). Further, Bufalin and Lycorine also recover left ventricular compliance of the murine heart upon angiotensin ll-infusion by reducing passive stiffness of the left ventricle induced by systemic hypertension (see Fig. 13).

[84] In particular, focus was drawn to Bufalin, which recovers velocity of tissue motion in diastole as well as recovers global longitudinal strain (GLS) in a murine model of angiotensin ll- induced cardiac fibrotic disease (see Fig. 14 and 15).

[85] In conclusion, the compound selected from the group consisting of Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Lycorine, Anisomycin or Geldanamycin as well as salts, analogs and derivatives thereof may be used as an anti-fibrotic compound, in a method of preventing or treating fibrosis in a subject, preferably cardiac fibrosis, lung fibrosis and/or kidney fibrosis, more preferably cardiac fibrosis.

[86] The subject can be any subject as defined herein, preferably a human subject. The subject is preferably in need of the administration of said compounds.

[87] Also contemplated by the present invention are derivatives of an inhibitor of miR-671 -5p for use in a method of preventing or treating fibrosis, wherein the inhibitor is selected from the group of Lycorine, Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Anisomycin and Geldanamycin.

[88] Derivatives of Bufalin and Lycorine are preferred in the present invention. In particular, derivatives of Lycorine being selected from the group consisting of Amb24051775, Cephalotaxine, Dihydrolycorine, Pseudolycorine, Homoharringtonine, Lycobetaine, Amb24179473, N-methyl-Nartazine, alpha-Dihydrolycorine, N-methyl-lycorine and Galanthine are being preferred (see Fig. 37). Derivatives of Bufalin being selected from the group consisting of Arenobufagin 3-hemisuberate, Periplogenin, Periplogenin3-[0-beta- glucopyranosyl-(1-4)-beta-sarmentopyranoside], lanatoside C, Cinobufotalin, Arenobufagin, Cinobufagin, Periplocin, Scillaridin A, Bufogenin B, Bufarenogenin, Bufogenin, Gamabufotalin, Bufotalin, Deacetylcinobufagin are also being preferred (see Fig. 38). The derivatives of the present invention are capable of preventing the proliferation of HCF such as the proliferation is prevented by Bufalin and Lycorine themselves (see Fig. 31 ). Preferably, Homoharringtonine (No. 19 in Fig. 31 ), a lycorine derivative, prevents the proliferation of HCF best. Thus, not only the inhibitors of miR-671 -5p of the present invention, but also the derivatives of said inhibitors are for use in a method for preventing or treating fibrosis, preferably cardiac fibrosis, lung fibrosis and/or kidney fibrosis, more preferably cardiac fibrosis.

[89] Further, it was shown that not only cardiac fibrosis is prevented or treated by the inhibitors of the present invention, but also lung fibrosis and/or kidney fibrosis. Preferably, Lycorine and/or Bufalin inhibit proliferation of renal and pulmonary fibroblasts (see Fig. 39). Thus, the present invention demonstrates plausibly that an inhibitor of miR-671 -5p being selected from the group consisting of Lycorine, Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Anisomycin and Geldanamycin as well as salts, analogs and derivatives thereof is able to prevent or treat fibrosis.

Table 1 : Overview of derivatives of Bufalin and Lycorine

(see Example 20 and Fig. 31 ).

Molecular name of Group Derivative No.

derivatives in Fig. 31

Amb24051775 alkaloid 1

Cephalotaxine alkaloid 2

Arenobufagin 3- bufadienolide 3

hemisuberate

Dihydrolycorine alkaloid 4

Periplogenin cardenolide 5

Periplogenin3-[0- cardenolide 6

beta-glucopyranosyl-

(1 -4)-beta- sarmentopyranoside]

lanatoside C cardenolide 7

Cinobufotalin bufadienolide 8

Arenobufagin bufadienolide 9

Cinobufagin bufadienolide 10

Periplocin cardenolide 1 1 Scillaridin A bufadienolide 12

Bufogenin B bufadienolide 13

Bufarenogenin bufadienolide 14

Pseudolycorine alkaloid 15

Bufogenin bufadienolide 16

Gamabufotalin bufadienolide 17

Bufotalin bufadienolide 18

Homoharringtonine alkaloid 19

Lycobetaine alkaloid 20

Am b24179473 alkaloid 21

N-methyl-Nartazine alkaloid 22

alpha- alkaloid 23

Dihydrolycorine

N-methyl-lycorine alkaloid 24

Deacetylcinobufagin bufadienolide 25

Galanthine alkaloid 26

[90] During fibrosis different miRNAs are important as disease-specific biomarkers and are either up- or downregulated as fibrotic stages during the disease increases.

[91] Therefore, a further aspect of the invention was the investigation of the mechanism underlying the anti-fibrotic potential of the identified compounds. Hereto, researchers performed a miRNA profiling approach via RNA deep sequencing in HCFs (see Fig. 16). Via qPCR it was found that miR-671-5p is downregulated by said test compounds, highlighting its potential importance in fibrosis-development (see Fig. 17).

[92] In particular, the focus lies here on the human miRNA called miR-671-5p which is located on Chromosome 7, 151 ,232,499 - 151 ,238,827 on the forward strand. The mature miRNA sequence is as follows: 5' AGGAAGCCCUGGAGGGGCUGGAG 3'.

As already mentioned, according to Murakami et al. (2012) miR-671-5p is known to play a role in liver fibrosis. In addition, according to Schulte et al. (2015) and Vegter et al. (2016), miR-671-

5p plays a role in cardiovascular disease, mainly heart failure. However, the prevalence of elevated miR-671 -5p levels in cardiac fibrosis was not reported in the prior art.

In the experiments that led to the present invention, high-throughput miRNA sequencing was performed in human cardiac fibroblasts (HCFs), where almost 50 miRNAs were investigated to be considered as either pro- or anti-fibrotic miRNAs upon treatment with the anti-fibrotic compound Bufalin, a specific inhibitor of miR-671-5p (see Fig. 16). These miRNAs investigated in HCFs are as follows: hsa-miR-7974, hsa-miR-103a-3p, hsa-miR-4521 , hsa-miR-23b-5p, hsa- miR-100-3p, hsa-miR-3648, hsa-miR-128-1-5p, hsa-miR-29b-1 -5p, hsa-miR-605-3p, hsa-miR- 370-5p, hsa-miR-152-5p, hsa-miR-25-5p, hsa-miR-671 -3p, hsa-miR-1226-3p, hsa-miR-296-3p, hsa-miR-409-5p, hsa-miR-221 -5p, hsa-miR-502-3p, hsa-miR-1301-3p, hsa-miR-125b-5p, hsa- miR-671 -5p, hsa-miR-1271-5p, hsa-miR-100-5p, hsa-miR-181 b-3p, hsa-miR-27b-5p, hsa-miR- 330-3p, hsa-miR-92a-1-5p, hsa-miR-543, hsa-miR-188-5p, hsa-miR-128-3p, hsa-miR-1 185-1- 3p, hsa-miR-1343-3p, hsa-miR-26b-3p, hsa-miR-668-3p, hsa-miR-770-5p, hsa-miR-142-5p, hsa-miR-675-5p, hsa-miR-451 a, hsa-miR-132-5p, hsa-miR-218-1-3p, hsa-miR-27a-5p, hsa- miR-215-5p, hsa-miR-132-3p, hsa-miR-33b-5p, hsa-miR-192-5p, hsa-miR-7977, hsa-miR-4443. Of the tested miRNAs, 33 miRNAs are considered as being potentially pro-fibrotic. Here, those miRNAs are downregulated in HCFs after treatment with Bufalin. These miRNAs illustrated in Figure 16 are: hsa-miR-7974, hsa-miR-103a-3p, hsa-miR-4521 , hsa-miR-23b-5p, hsa-miR-100- 3p, hsa-miR-3648, hsa-miR-128-1 -5p, hsa-miR-29b-1 -5p, hsa-miR-605-3p, hsa-miR-370-5p, hsa-miR-152-5p, hsa-miR-25-5p, hsa-miR-671-3p, hsa-miR-1226-3p, hsa-miR-296-3p, hsa- miR-409-5p, hsa-miR-221 -5p, hsa-miR-502-3p, hsa-miR-1301 -3p, hsa-miR-125b-5p, hsa-miR- 671 -5p, hsa-miR-1271 -5p, hsa-miR-100-5p, hsa-miR-181 b-3p, hsa-miR-27b-5p, hsa-miR-330- 3p, hsa-miR-92a-1-5p, hsa-miR-543, hsa-miR-188-5p, hsa-miR-128-3p, hsa-miR-1 185-1 -3p, hsa-miR-1343-3p, hsa-miR-26b-3p.

Table 2: 47 mature miRNA sequences, whose miRNA expression of HCFs was observed using high-throughput miRNA sequencing (see Example 9).

SEQ ID No. mature hsa (homo sapiens) miRNAs miRNA sequences

1 hsa-miR-671-5p aggaagcccuggaggggcuggag

2 hsa-miR-7974 aggcugugaugcucuccugagccc

3 hsa-miR-103a-3p agcagcauuguacagggcuauga

4 hsa-miR-4521 gcuaaggaaguccugugcucag

5 hsa-miR-4443 uuggaggcguggguuuu

6 hsa-miR-23b-5p uggguuccuggcaugcugauuu

7 hsa-miR-100-3p caagcuuguaucuauagguaug

8 hsa-miR-7977 u u cccag ccaacg caeca

9 hsa-miR-3648 agccgcggggaucgccgaggg

10 hsa-miR-128-1-5p cggggccguagcacugucugaga

1 1 hsa-miR-29b-1-5p gcugguuucauauggugguuuaga

12 hsa-miR-192-5p cugaccuaugaauugacagcc

13 hsa-miR-605-3p agaaggcacuaugagauuuaga

14 hsa-miR-370-5p caggucacgucucugcaguuac

15 hsa-miR-152-5p agguucugugauacacuccgacu

16 hsa-miR-25-5p aggeggagacuugggcaauug

17 hsa-miR-671-3p uccgguucucagggcuccacc

18 hsa-miR-1226-3p ucaccagcccuguguucccuag

19 hsa-miR-296-3p gaggguuggguggaggcucucc

20 hsa-miR-409-5p agguuacccgagcaacuuugcau

21 hsa-miR-221-5p accuggcauacaauguagauuu

22 hsa-miR-33b-5p gugcauugcuguugcauugc

23 hsa-miR-502-3p aaugcaccugggcaaggauuca

24 hsa-miR-132-3p uaacagucuacagccauggucg

25 hsa-miR-1301-3p uugcagcugccugggagugacuuc

26 hsa-miR-125b-5p ucccugagacccuaacuuguga

27 hsa-miR-27a-5p augaccuaugaauugacagac

28 hsa-miR-215-5p augaccuaugaauugacagac

29 hsa-miR-1271-5p cuuggcaccuagcaagcacuca

30 hsa-miR-100-5p aacccguagauccgaacuugug

31 hsa-miR-218-1-3p augguuccgucaagcaccaugg

32 hsa-miR-181 b-3p cucacugaacaaugaaugcaa

33 hsa-miR-27b-5p agagcuuagcugauuggugaac

34 hsa-miR-132-5p accguggcuuucgauuguuacu

35 hsa-miR-330-3p gcaaagcacacggccugcagaga

36 hsa-miR-675-5p uggugcggagagggcccacagug

37 hsa-miR-451 a aaaccguuaccauuacugaguu

38 hsa-miR-92a-1-5p agguugggauegguugcaaugcu

39 hsa-miR-543 aaacauucgcggugcacuucuu

40 hsa-miR-770-5p u ccag u accacg u g u cagg g cca

41 hsa-miR-142-5p cauaaaguagaaagcacuacu

42 hsa-miR-188-5p caucccuugcaugguggaggg

43 hsa-miR-128-3p ucacagugaaccggucucuuu

44 hsa-miR-1 185-1-3p auauacagggggagacucuuau

45 hsa-miR-668-3p ugucacucggcucggcccacuac

46 hsa-miR-1343-3p cuccuggggcccgcacucucgc

47 hsa-miR-26b-3p ccuguucuccauuacuuggcuc [93] The present inventors also surprisingly found that miR-671-5p regulates fibrosis and inflammation in primary HCFs. This was found by testing that after overexpression of said miRNA, markers of fibrosis (a-Smooth Muscle Actin, a-SMA and Connective Tissue Growth Factor, CTGF) and inflammation (lnterleukin-6, IL-6 and lnterleukin-8, IL-8) were activated in HCFs (see Fig. 18). Further, overexpression of miR-671-5p also enhances migration of HCFs (see Fig. 19). These data reveal that miR-671-5p can be considered as being pro-fibrotic.

[94] Moreover, it was shown that miR-671-5p is not only activated in various mouse models of heart failure, but also in human heart tissue of aortic stenosis-patients. This underscores the potential therapeutic relevance of regulation of this miRNA (see Fig. 20).

[95] Further, the present invention contemplates identification of potential targets of miR-671- 5p by using different web based bioinformatics target prediction tools. It was found, that miR- 671 -5p targets a circular RNA CDRI as, which is highly abundant in HCFs as well as Selenoprotein P as an additional target due to consequential pairing of target region to miR- 671-5p (see Fig. 21 and 20).

[96] Assessment of levels of CDRI as as well as the mRNA encoded on the opposite strand on the same genomic locus were investigated in vitro. CDRIas levels were found to be increased in HCFs after treatment with the anti-fibrotic substances (see Fig. 22), whereas CDR1 mRNA levels decreased in HCFs after treatment with said compounds (see Fig. 23).

[97] CDRI as can act as an antagonist of miRNAs and is encoded in the genome antisense to the human CDR1 (gene) locus (hence the name CDRI as). Selenoprotein is any protein that includes selenocysteine (Se-Cys) amino acid residues and is well established to be considered with an anti-fibrotic potential.

[98] Additionally, it was discovered that the CDRI as is an anti-fibrotic target of miR-671-5p due to a silencing of CDRIas via sisiRNA-chemistry leading to an increase in expression levels of the extracellular matrix component Collagen1 a1 in primary HCFs (see Fig. 24).

[99] Therefore, the present invention further encompasses an activator of CDRI as for use in a method of preventing or treating fibrosis, preferably cardiac fibrosis, lung fibrosis and/or kidney fibrosis, more preferably cardiac fibrosis. In this context, the activator is selected from the group consisting of Lycorine, Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Anisomycin and Geldanamycin, as well as salts, analogs and derivatives thereof. Preferably, the activator is Bufalin, more preferably the activator is Lycorine.

[100] Again, the therapeutically effective amount of said test compound per administration is at least 0.1 μΜ, or more than 0.1 μΜ and less than 50μΜ, or from 0.5 to 10μΜ, or from 1 μΜ to 5μΜ, preferably 1 μΜ for said compound. The amount of the test compound is at least 0.5 μΜ, 1 μΜ, 2 μΜ, 3 μΜ, 4 μΜ, 5 μΜ, 6 μΜ, 7 μΜ, 8 μΜ, 9 μΜ, or at least 10 μΜ. The amount of Bufalin, Anisomycin, Gitoxigenin and/or Geldanamycin is from 0.5 to 10μΜ, or is from 0.5μΜ to 5μΜ, preferably 0.5μΜ, 0.6μΜ, 0.7μΜ, 0.8μΜ, 0.9μΜ, 1 μΜ, 2μΜ, 3μΜ, 4μΜ and/or 5μΜ, more preferably 1 μΜ.

The amount of Lycorine is from 0.5 to 20μΜ, or is from 0.5μΜ to 10μΜ, preferably 0.5μΜ, 0.6μΜ, 0.7μΜ, 0.8μΜ, 0.9μΜ, 1 μΜ, 2μΜ, 3μΜ, 4μΜ, 5μΜ, 6μΜ, 7μΜ, 8μΜ, 9μΜ and/or 10μΜ, more preferably 5μΜ.

[101] This particular finding can be considered as another unitary feature of the natural compound selected from the group consisting of Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Lycorine, Anisomycin and Geldanamycin.

[102] To sum it up, miR-671-5p regulates fibrosis and inflammation v/ ' a its direct anti-fibrotic targets, the circular RNA CDRI as and Selenoprotein P.

[103] Thus, the present invention provides an inhibitor of miR-671 -5p for use in a method of preventing or treating fibrosis.

[104] This particular finding, the inhibition of miR-671 -5p, was observed for all of the natural compounds selected from the group consisting of Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Lycorine, Anisomycin and Geldanamycin.

[105] The present invention also envisages an inhibitor of miR-671 -5p for use in a method of preventing or treating fibrosis, wherein said use comprises administering the inhibitor every other day for a time period of two weeks, three weeks, four weeks, five weeks, six weeks, seven weeks, eight weeks or about two months, three months, four months, five months, six months or even longer than half a year and/or a year. Preferably, said inhibitor is administered during two weeks, preferably for two consecutive weeks.

[106] The administration of said inhibitor is performed by injections or by infusions, preferably by injections. The administration of the inhibitor is performed intraperitoneally, intravenously, subcutaneously, intramuscularly or orally, preferably intraperitoneally.

[107] Where the composition is to be administered by infusion, it can be dispensed with an infusion bottle containing sterile pharmaceutical grade water or saline. Where the composition is administered by injection, an ampoule of sterile water for injection or saline can be provided so that the ingredients may be mixed prior to administration. The inhibitor is preferably injected. This injection is administered intraperitoneally.

[108] The present invention also provides a kit that can be used including the inhibitor. The kit comprises the inhibitor of miR-671 -5p and contains sufficient amounts of said inhibitor of miR- 671 -5p for effectively preventing or treating fibrosis.

[109] In one embodiment, the kit comprises one or more containers filled with the pharmaceutical composition of the invention. Furthermore, one or more additional prophylactic or therapeutic agents useful for the treatment of a fibrosis, preferably cardiac fibrosis, lung fibrosis and/or kidney fibrosis, more preferably cardiac fibrosis can also be included in the pharmaceutical pack or kit. [110] The present invention further encompasses an in vitro method for identifying a compound for preventing or treating fibrosis. High-throughput miRNA sequencing was performed prior and after the treatment of anti-fibrotic compounds. miR-671-5p was used as a general target (see Fig. 17).

[111] First, the in vitro method includes measuring the amount of miR-671-5p in cells undergoing fibrosis; and second, contacting the cells undergoing fibrosis with a test compound and third, comparing the amount of miR-671-5p in said fibrotic cells after step two with the amount of miR-671-5p measured in the first step, wherein a decrease in miR-671-5p levels indicates that the test compound is a compound for preventing or treating fibrosis.

[112] The experiment described in Example 10 shows that the expression levels of miR-671- 5p are decreased in primary HCFs upon treatment with Lycorine, Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Anisomycin and Geldanamycin as compared to the DMSO-control.

[113] In this context, the amount of the test compound per administration is at least 0.1 μΜ. The amount of the test compound per administration is 0.1 μΜ, 0.2μΜ, 0.3μΜ, 0.4μΜ, 0.5μΜ, 0.6μΜ, 0.7μΜ, 0.8μΜ, 0.9μΜ and/or 1 μΜ. The amount of the test compound per administration is at least 0.5 μΜ, 1 μΜ, 2 μΜ, 3 μΜ, 4 μΜ, 5 μΜ, 6 μΜ, 7 μΜ, 8 μΜ, 9 μΜ, or at least 10 μΜ. The amount of said test compound per administration is less than 50μΜ. The amount of said test compound per administration is 50μΜ, 45μΜ, 40μΜ, 35μΜ, 30μΜ, 25μΜ, 20μΜ, 15μΜ, 10μΜ. The amount of said test compound per administration is more than 0.1 μΜ or less than 50μΜ, or from 0.5 to 10μΜ, or from 1 μΜ to 5μΜ, preferably 1 μΜ for said compound. In particular, the therapeutically effective amount of Bufalin, Anisomycin, Gitoxigenin and/or Geldanamycin is from 0.5 to 10μΜ, or is from 0.5μΜ to 5μΜ, preferably 0.5μΜ, 0.6μΜ, 0.7μΜ, 0.8μΜ, 0.9μΜ, 1 μΜ, 2μΜ, 3μΜ, 4μΜ and/or 5μΜ, more preferably I pM.The therapeutically effective amount of Lycorine is from 0.5 to 20μΜ, or is from 0.5μΜ to 10μΜ, preferably 0.5μΜ, 0.6μΜ, 0.7μΜ, 0.8μΜ, 0.9μΜ, 1 μΜ, 2μΜ, 3μΜ, 4μΜ, 5μΜ, 6μΜ, 7μΜ, 8μΜ, 9μΜ and/or 10μΜ, more preferably 5μΜ.

[114] In one aspect, the cells undergoing fibrosis used for the in vitro methods described above can be cardiac cells, lung cells, liver cells, kidney cells, intestinal cells, skeletal muscle cells or dermal cells, preferably human cardiac fibroblasts (HCFs), renal fibroblasts, and/or primary pulmonary fibroblasts (HPFs), more preferably human cardiac fibroblasts (HCFs).

[115] In conclusion, the present invention provides an inhibitor of miR-671 -5p for use in a method of preventing or treating fibrosis, wherein the inhibitor is selected from the group consisting of Lycorine, Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Anisomycin and Geldanamycin, as well as salts, analogs and derivatives thereof. Preferably, the inhibitor is Bufalin, more preferably the inhibitor is Lycorine. In a preferred embodiment, Bufalin and Lycorine are the preferred inhibitors of the present invention.

[116] Further provided by the present invention is a use of an inhibitor of miR-671-5p for the manufacture of a medicament for therapeutic application of fibrosis. Preferably, the inhibitor is selected from the group consisting of Lycorine, Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Anisomycin, Geldanamycin as well as salts, analogs and derivatives thereof.

[117] Additionally, a method of preventing or treating fibrosis comprising administering an effective amount of an inhibitor of miR-671 -5p to a subject in need thereof is also contemplated by the present invention. Preferably, the inhibitor is selected from the group consisting of Lycorine, Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Anisomycin, Geldanamycin as well as salts, analogs and derivatives thereof. The subject can be any subject as defined herein. The subject is preferably in need of the administration.

[118] Definitions:

[119] The term "fibrosis" refers to the formation of excess fibrous connective tissue in an organ or tissue in a reparative or reactive process, which can destroy the architecture and function of the underlying organ or tissue. As used herein, "fibrosis" in this context "fibrosis" can be selected from cardiac fibrosis, lung fibrosis, liver fibrosis, kidney fibrosis, gastrointestinal fibrosis, skeletal muscle fibrosis, systemic sclerosis, multifocal fibrosclerosis, sclerodermatous graft-versus-host disease (GVHD) in bone marrow transplantation recipients, nephrogenic systemic fibrosis or dermal fibrosis, preferably fibrosis is cardiac fibrosis, lung fibrosis and/or kidney fibrosis, more preferably cardiac fibrosis (in particular myocardial fibrosis).

[120] The term "inhibitor" as used herein refers to a compound that inhibits a molecule, either directly by binding to it or indirectly.

[121] A "molecule" refers to any amino acid, a protein, any nucleic acid, DNA and/or RNA. A RNA can be, in particular, mRNA, rRNA, tRNA, siRNA, sisiRNA and/or miRNA, preferably miRNA.

[122] The term "directly by binding to" would include binding of the compound (e.g. inhibitor) to the promoter of said molecule. In this context, the inhibitor preferably does not bind directly to said molecule (e.g. miRNA). The inhibitor indirectly inhibits the miRNA, preferably its target miR- 671 -5p, thus having an indirect inhibitor of miR-671-5p for use in a method of preventing or treating fibrosis, preferably cardiac fibrosis, lung fibrosis and/or kidney fibrosis, more preferably cardiac fibrosis.

[123] As used herein, the term "treating" and analogs terms refer to a management and care of a patient and/or the combating of disease or disorder.

[124] As used herein, the terms "prevent", "preventing" and "prevention" refer to the prevention of the recurrence or the onset of one or more symptoms of a disorder or disease, especially in individuals which have been analyzed to be susceptible or likely to develop the disease. Such analysis can for example take into account certain marker substances in body fluids of individuals or a known or suspected hereditary disposition or risk for developing such diseases.

[125] The term "compound" or "test compound" refers to a natural compound, a synthetic compound or a hemisynthetic compound, preferably the compound is selected from the group consisting of Lycorine, Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Anisomycin and Geldanamycin, salts, analogs and derivatives thereof as well as the stereoisomers of said analogs. In this context, the compound acting as an inhibitor refers to a natural compound.

[126] The term "cardiac glycoside" used herein refers to the category of compounds that have a positive inotropic effect on the heart. As a general class of compounds, cardiac glycosides comprise a steroid core with either a pyrone or butenolide substituent at C17 (the "pyrone form" and "butenolide form"). Additionally, cardiac glycosides may optionally be glycosylated at C3. The form of cardiac glycosides without glycosylation is also known as "aglycone." Most cardiac glycosides include one to four sugars attached to the 3β-ΟΗ group. The sugars most commonly used include L-rhamnose, D-glucose, D-digitoxose, D-digitalose, D-digginose, D-sarmentose, L- vallarose, and D-fructose. In general, the sugars affect the pharmacokinetics of a cardiac glycoside with little other effect on biological activity.

A large number of cardiac glycosides are known in the art. Exemplary cardiac glycoside include, but are not limited to, bufalin, ouabain, digitoxigenin, digoxin, lanatoside C, Strophantin K, uzarigenin, desacetyllanatoside A, digitoxin, actyl digitoxin, desacetyllanatoside C, strophanthoside, scillarenin, scillaren A, proscillaridin, proscillaridin A, BNC-1 , BNC-4, digitoxose, gitoxin, strophanthidiol, oleandrin, acovenoside A, strophanthidine digilanobioside, strophanthidin-d-cymaroside, digitoxigenin-L-rhamnoside, digitoxigenin theretoside, strophanthidin, strophanthidine, strophanthidine digilanobioside, strophanthidin-Dcymaroside, digoxigenin, digoxigenin 3,12-diacetate, gitoxigenin, gitoxigenin 3-acetate, gitoxigenin 3,16- diacetate, 16-acetyl gitoxigenin, acetyl strophanthidin, ouabagenin, 3-epigoxigenin, neriifolin, acetylneriifolin cerberin, theventin, somalin, odoroside, honghelin, desacetyl digilanide, calotropin, calotoxin, lanatoside A, uzarin, strophanthidine-3 -digitoxoside, strophanthidin a-L- rhamnopyranoside, as well as analogs, derivatives, pharmaceutically acceptable salts, and/or prodrugs thereof.

[127] The term "alkaloid" as used herein refers to a group of naturally occurring chemical compounds that mostly contain basic nitrogen atoms. Alkaloids are produced by a large variety of organisms including bacteria, fungi, plants, and animals. They can be purified from crude extracts of these organisms by acid-base extraction. Alkaloids have a wide range of pharmacological activities including antimalarial, antiasthma, anticancer, cholinomimetic, vasodilatory, antiarrhythmic, analgesic, antibacterial and antihyperglycemic activities.

[128] The term "antibiotic" as used herein describes a type of antimicrobial drug used in the treatment and prevention of bacterial infections, by either killing or inhibiting the growth of bacteria. Antibiotics have normally no positive influence on viruses such as the influenza virus. The classification of antibiotics is commonly based on their mechanism of action, chemical structure, or spectrum of activity, mostly targeting bacterial function. Either antibiotics target the cell wall (penicillins) or the cell membrane (polymyxins) or interfere with essential bacterial enzymes. These antibiotics have bactericidal activities. Those that target protein synthesis (anisomycin and tetracyclines) are usually bacteriostatic. Another criteria for a further characterization includes the target specificity. Such antibiotics target either a limited spectrum of specific bacteria or a broad spectrum of a wide range of bacteria.

[129] The term "non-human mammal" as used herein refers to the group consisting of rodents, dogs, felids, primates, rabbits, pigs and ruminants, preferably a pig, more preferably a mouse.

[130] The term "subject" refers to a mammal in particular a human, non-human primate, a rodent, a dog, a felid, a rabbit, a pig and a ruminant. Preferably the subject is a human subject.

[131] The term "analog" or "structural analog" refers to a compound having a structure similar to that of another compound, but differing from it in respect to a certain component, differing in one or more atoms, functional groups, or substructures, which are replaced with other atoms, groups, or substructures.

[132] The term "derivative" refers to a compound that is derived from a similar compound by a chemical reaction. In this context, derivatives of an inhibitor of miR-671-5p, wherein the inhibitor is selected from the group consisting of Lycorine, Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Anisomycin and Geldanamycin have a similar structure to the inhibitors of the present invention per se and are also capable of preventing or treating fibrosis.

[133] It is noted that as used herein, the singular forms "a", "an", and "the", include plural references unless the context clearly indicates otherwise. Thus, for example, reference to "a reagent" includes one or more of such different reagents and reference to "the method" includes reference to equivalent steps and methods known to those of ordinary skill in the art that could be modified or substituted for the methods described herein.

[134] Unless otherwise indicated, the term "at least" preceding a series of elements is to be understood to refer to every element in the series. Those skilled in the art will recognize, or be able to ascertain using no more than routine experimentation, many equivalents to the specific embodiments of the invention described herein. Such equivalents are intended to be encompassed by the present invention.

[135] The term "and/or" wherever used herein includes the meaning of "and", "or" and "all or any other combination of the elements connected by said term".

[136] The term "less than" or in turn "greater than" includes the concrete number. For example, less than 20 means less than or equal to. Similarly, more than or greater than means more than or equal to, or greater than or equal to, respectively. [137] Throughout this specification and the claims which follow, unless the context requires otherwise, the word "comprise", and variations such as "comprises" and "comprising", will be understood to imply the inclusion of a stated integer or step or group of integers or steps but not the exclusion of any other integer or step or group of integer or step. When used herein the term "comprising" can be substituted with the term "containing" or "including" or sometimes when used herein with the term "having". When used herein "consisting of" excludes any element, step, or ingredient not specified.

[138] The term "including" means "including but not limited to". "Including" and "including but not limited to" are used interchangeably.

[139] It should be understood that this invention is not limited to the particular methodology, protocols, material, reagents, and substances, etc., described herein and as such can vary. The terminology used herein is for the purpose of describing particular embodiments only, and is not intended to limit the scope of the present invention, which is defined solely by the claims.

[140] All publications cited throughout the text of this specification (including all patents, patent application, scientific publications, instructions, etc.), whether supra or infra, are hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety. Nothing herein is to be construed as an admission that the invention is not entitled to antedate such disclosure by virtue of prior invention. To the extent the material incorporated by reference contradicts or is inconsistent with this specification, the specification will supersede any such material.

[141] The content of all documents and patent documents cited herein is incorporated by reference in their entirety.

[142] A better understanding of the present invention and of its advantages will be had from the following examples, offered for illustrative purposes only. The examples are not intended to limit the scope of the present invention in any way.

EXAMPLES

[143] Hereinafter, the present invention is described in more detail and specifically with reference to the Examples, which however are not intended to limit the present invention.

[144] Example 1 : Identification of anti-fibrotic natural compounds Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Lycorine, Anisomycin and Geldanamycin in vitro.

[145] Functional screen of 480 nature-derived substances in vitro in primary human cardiac fibroblasts (HCFs) uncovers compounds inhibiting proliferation of HCFs.

HCFs were incubated with 0.1 μΜ, 1 μΜ and 10μΜ Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Anisomycin and Geldanamycin as well as with 1 μΜ, 5μΜ and 10μΜ Lycorine for 24h and proliferation of HCFs was measured by BrdU-ELISA (see Fig. 1). Due to major drawbacks as a drug candidate, Geldanamycin was not included in the follow-up studies, in particular in the in vivo experiments.

[146] Example 2: Anti-fibrotic compounds potently and specifically act on HCFs in vitro.

[147] Dose-dependent inhibitory effects of Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Lycorine and Anisomycin on proliferation of primary HCFs are fibroblast-specific as evidenced by no impact of the same concentrations of said compounds on proliferation of HL-1.

HCFs and HL-1 cells were treated with Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Lycorine and Anisomycin for 24h with the same concentrations as indicated in Example 1 and proliferation of HCFs and cardiomyocyte cell line HL-1 cells was measured by BrdU-ELISA, DMSO refers as a control (see Fig. 2B, 3B, 4B, 5B). The cell proliferation ELISA is a colorimetric alternative to quantitate cell proliferation based on the measurement of BrdU incorporation during DNA synthesis in proliferating cells. After its incorporation into DNA, BrdU is detected by immunoassay by using antibodies being highly specific for BrdU. First, HCFs and/or HL-1 cells are cultured together with various dilutions of test substances (e.g. mitogens, growth factors, cytokines and test compounds such as Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Lycorine and Anisomycin as mentioned above etc.) in a 96-well in a final volume of 100 μΙ/well in a humified atmosphere of 37 ° C. Afterwards, 10 μ l/well BrdU labeling solution is added to the cells being cultured in 100 μΙ/well (final concentration: 10 μΜ BrdU). Then, cells were re-incubated for additional 2 to 24 h at 37 ° C. Next, labeling solution is removed and 200 μ l/we 11 FixDenat is added to the cells and incubated for 30 min at 15 to 25 ° C. Then, 100 μΙ/well anti-BrdU-POD working solution is added and incubated for approximately 90 min, after FixDenat is removed. Next, antibody conjugate is removed and wells are washed with 200 μΙ - 300 μΙ/well Washing solution (PBS, 1x). After the washing solution is removed, 100 μ l/we 11 Substrate solution is added and it is incubated again until color development is sufficient for photometric detection. Further, HCFs were treated with said compounds (Lycorine: 5μΜ, Bufalin: 1 μΜ, Gitoxigenin: 1 μΜ and Anisomycin: 1 μΜ) ΐοΓ 24h as indicated again and subjected to FACS analysis after Annexin-7AAD-staining (see Fig. 2C, 3C, 4C, 5C). After the treatment with said compounds, annexin-7AAD-staining starts with inducing apoptosis in HCFs by a desired method, known to the person skilled in the art, a negative control (w/o induction and staining) and a positive control (f.ex. 500 μΜ H 2 0 2 or 3 μΜ Staurosporin) is also needed. Then, the medium with HCFs is transferred into a falcon, washed with PBS and trypsinized. Everything is centrifuged for 5 min at 300x g and then the supernatant is aspirated. The pellet is re-suspended in 200 μΙ Annexin Red/7AAD Working Solution (1 :20, 5 μΙ Annexin Red/7 AAD + 195 μΙ 1x Assay Buffer) and transferred into an Easy Cap Eppendorf tube. After incubation of 15 min at 37°C, it is centrifuged at room temperature (RT) for 5 min at 300x g. Then, the supernatant is aspirated, the pellet washed once with 200 μΙ 1x Assay Buffer and centrifuged again at RT for 5 min at 300x g. Again, the supernatant is aspirated and the pellet is re-suspended in 200 μΙ Annexin Red/7AAD working solution and incubated again at RT for 5 min in the dark. Samples are now ready for acquisition on a flow cytometer (blue and red laser).

[148] Additionally, HCFs were treated with said compounds (Lycorine: 5μΜ, Bufalin:^M, Gitoxigenin: 1 μΜ and Anisomycin: 1 μΜ) for 24h as indicated again, lysed and analyzed for extracellular matrix component Collagen 1 a1 protein levels in primary HCFs (normalized to GAPDH) by representative Western Blot, DMSO refers as a control (see Fig. 2D, 3D, 4D, 5D).

[149] Example 3: Murine model of Angiotensin ll-induced cardiac fibrotic disease.

[150] Diastolic heart failure (HF) was induced in C57BL/6 mice via implantation of angiotensin II filled minipumps. Male C57BL/6 mice 8-10 weeks old were used in the present invention being based on a C57BL/6N-background (Charles River,Germany).

[151] For implantation of angiotension II filled minipumps, Angiotensin-ll is applied by osmotic minipumps for two weeks (alzet® [Modell 1001 ]). The recommended dose amounts for 1.5 or 3.0 mg/kg/per day. The minipumps are filled under sterile conditions with Angiotensin-ll or with isotonic saline solution functioning as a control substance. Implantation takes place under intraperitoneal injection anaesthesia. After injection of the anaesthetic, a certain time should be waited until the interdigital reflex does not exist anymore. Mice are then fixed on a pre-heated operating table and are provided with Bepanthen eye salve against drying out of the conjunctives. The operating field is located in the right caudal third of the back. It is shaved and desinfected with Braunol, afterwards it is coated with a 0.5% Lidocain-solution. After a period of one hour implantation can be started. The skin is cut through vertical to the back line, preferably the length is one centimeter. A pocket from the cutting line to cranial is subcutaneously formed. Herein, the minipumps are injected. Afterwards, the skin is then closed with a 5-0 Prolene string with interrupted sutures. Then, the closed wound is coated again with Braunol. For preventing hypothermia mice wake up in their cages, which are placed up to one-third on a terrarium- warming mat with regulated temperatures of 37°. Surgery amounts for 5 minutes/per animal. [152] Next, the natural compounds (Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Lycorine, and Anisomycin) were injected intraperitoneally every other day during two consecutive weeks starting two days after the operation (see Fig. 6). DMSO was also injected into C57BL/6 mice with induced cardiac remodeling as a control. Cardiac function was assessed echocardiographically and fibrosis- development via collagen staining with picosirius-red in histological sections of the hearts (Example 4).

[153] Example 4: Bufalin, Lycorine, Anisomycin and Gitoxigenin significantly ameliorate cardiac function and cardiac fibrosis in a murine model of induced cardiac fibrotic disease.

[154] Natural compounds ameliorate heart function in a murine model of angiotensin II- induced cardiac fibrotic disease in vivo.

Diastolic HF was induced in C57BL/6 mice and the natural compounds were injected as indicated in Example 3. Fourteen days after the operation, cardiac function of the mice was assessed echocardiographically (n=9-15 per group) by treating the mice with said compounds (Bufalin: 0.5mg/kg, Lycorine 4.5mg/kg, Anisomycin: 10mg/kg and Gitoxigenin: 0.01 mg/kg). A decrease of the Myocardial Performance Index (MPI) as well as a reduction of the isovolumetric relaxation time (IVRT) and an increase in E to A peak ratio (E/A) (the ratio of the early (E) to late (A) ventricular filling velocities as a marker of the function of the left ventricle of the heart) indicate improvement of both global (MPI) and diastolic (IVRT and E/A) function of the heart (see Fig. 7 and 9).

[155] Further, fourteen days after the operation, histological sections of the hearts were stained for collagen using picrosirius-red (n=3-5 per group) after treatment with said compounds (Bufalin: 0.5mg/kg, Lycorine 4.5mg/kg, Anisomycin: 10mg/kg and Gitoxigenin: 0.01 mg/kg). Prominent reduction of collagen deposition in representative images of histological sections of the hearts as well as the quantification of picrosirius-stained areas point to prevention of fibrosis-development by Bufalin, Lycorine, Anisomycin and Gitoxigenin (see Fig. 8 and 10).

[156] Example 5: Murine model of Angiotensin ll-induced cardiac fibrotic disease II.

[157] Diastolic heart failure (HF) was induced in C57BL/6N mice via implantation of angiotensin II filled minipumps (see Example 3). In difference to Example 3, C57BL/6N mice were infused with 3mg/kg/day angiotensin II by subcutaneously implanted minipumps for eight weeks.

[158] Next, Bufalin or Lycorine (dissolved in DMSO) or the solvent DMSO alone (as control) were injected intraperitoneally (i.p) every other day until the endpoint, starting two weeks after start of angiotensin ll-infusion (see Fig. 11). [159] Example 6: Bufalin and Lycorine significantly ameliorate cardiac function and cardiac fibrosis in a murine model of induced cardiac fibrotic disease.

[160] Diastolic HF was induced in C57BL/6 mice and Bufalin or Lycorine were injected as indicated in Example 5. Eight weeks after the operation, cardiac function of the mice was assessed echocardiographically (n=5-12 per group) by treating the mice with said compounds (Bufalin: 0,5mg/kg, Lycorine 4,5mg/kg).

[161] A decrease of the Myocardial Performance Index (MPI) (see Fig. 12B) as well as a reduction of the isovolumetric relaxation time (IV T) (see Fig. 12C) and an increase in E to A peak ratio (E/A) (the ratio of the early (E) to late (A) ventricular filling velocities as a marker of the function of the left ventricle of the heart) (see Fig. 12D) indicate improvement of both global (MPI) and diastolic (IVRT and E/A) function of the heart, in particular for Bufalin.

[162] Additionally, eight weeks after the operation, histological sections of the hearts were stained for collagen using picrosirius-red (n=7-12 per group) after treatment with Bufalin or Lycorine. Prominent reduction of collagen deposition in representative images of histological sections of the hearts as well as the quantification of picrosirius-stained areas point to prevention of fibrosis-development by Bufalin or Lycorine (see Fig. 12A).

[163] Example 7: Bufalin and Lycorine recover left ventricular compliance of the murine heart upon angiotensin ll-infusion.

[164] Diastolic HF was induced in C57BL/6 mice and Bufalin or Lycorine were injected as indicated in Example 5. Eight weeks after the operation, hemodynamic measurements of the mice were assessed (n=6-7 per group) by treating the mice with said compounds (Bufalin: 0,5mg/kg, Lycorine 4,5mg/kg).

[165] Hemodynamic (dynamics of the blood flow, here in the heart) measurements were performed using invasive clinical blood pressure measurement (called MILLAR, in particular 1 F, PVR-1000, Millar Instruments), showing a significant reduction of the end-diastolic pressure- volume relationship (EDPVR) by Bufalin and Lycorine treatment (see Fig. 13).

[166] Example 8: Improvement of cardiac function by Bufalin treatment.

[167] Diastolic HF was induced in C57BL/6 mice and Bufalin were injected as indicated in

Example 5. Eight weeks after the operation, cardiac function of the mice was assessed echocardiographically (n=3-6 per group) by treating the mice with said compounds (Bufalin:

0,5mg/kg)

[168] Echocardiographic measurements were performed using Tissue Doppler Imaging (TDI), which refers to a medical ultrasound technology mainly used in Echocardiography that measures the velocity of the heart muscle or myocardium through the phases of one or more heartbeats by the Doppler effect (frequency shift) of the reflected ultrasound (see Fig. 14). [169] Additionally, myocardial deformation was assessed using strain imaging such as 2- dimensional speckle-tracking strain echocardiography. Global longitudinal strain (GLS), a measure for the deformation of the myocardium, which decreases when diastolic dysfunction is present, is depicted in Fig. 15. In accordance with the murine model for heart failure with preserved ejection fraction (HFpEF) (a mouse model for diastolic dysfunction of the heart), the parameter of the systolic function of the heart, namely the ejection fraction (EF), how much blood is ejected during the contraction phase, remained comparable in all tested groups (also see Fig. 15).

[170] Example 9: High-throughput miRNA sequencing in human cardiac fibroblasts treated with anti-fibrotic compounds.

[171] Bufalin impacts on the miRnome of HCFs in vitro and changes the miRNA-signature of HCFs.

HCFs were treated with 1 μΜ Bufalin for 24h as indicated, total RNA was isolated and subjected to high-throughput miRNA sequencing profiling via deep sequencing, DMSO refers as a control. To perform a high-throughput miRNA sequencing the lllumina® TruSeq® Small RNA technology is used to prepare various RNA species which is known to the person skilled in the art. In view of said technology, advantages of the natural structure common to most known microRNA molecules are taken. Most mature miRNAs have a 5'-phosphate and a 3'- hydroxyl group as a result of the cellular pathway used to create them. Because of this, the lllumina adapters which are used are directly and specifically ligated to miRNAs. Thus, libraries for subsequent cluster generation are prepared, using total RNA as input. Further, adapter ligation, reverse transcription, PCR amplification, and pooled gel purification to generate a library product is applied as it is known to the skilled person in the art.

The top-30 significantly deregulated miRNAs indicate potentially pro-fibrotic miRNAs that are downregulated after Bufalin treatment. Data represent pooled triplicates from 3 independent experiments. Representative experiment shown; the same experiment was performed with all the anti-fibrotic natural substances identified (see Fig. 16).

[172] Example 10: miR-671-5p levels are significantly decreased by identified anti- fibrotic compounds in HCFs.

[173] Expression levels of miR-671-5p are decreased in primary HCFs upon treatment with Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Lycorine, Anisomycin and Geldanamycin as compared to the DMSO- control.

HCFs were incubated for 24h with Bufalin (1 μΜ), Gitoxigenin (1 μΜ,) Lycorine (5μΜ), Anisomycin (1 μΜ) and Geldanamycin (1 μΜ) and downregulation of miR-671-5p (normalized to RNU48) by the respective compound was validated via qRT-PCR, DMSO refers as a control Representative experiment show that the same experiment was performed with all the anti- fibrotic natural substances identified (see Fig. 17).

[174] Example 11 : miR-671-5p regulates fibrosis and inflammation and overexpression of miR-671 -5p enhances migration of HCFs in vitro both under basal conditions and under treatment conditions with Bufalin.

[175] Overexpression of miR-671 -5p leads to activation of markers of fibrosis and inflammation in primary HCFs. Conversely, inhibition of miR-671-5p leads to a prominent decrease in above mentioned markers of fibrosis and inflammation (normalized to 18S rRNA) in primary HCFs.

[176] For that, HCFs were transfected with miR-671 -5p mimic (see Fig. 18A) and inhibitor (mirVana® miRNA inhibitor against hsa-miR-671-5p, Thermo Fisher Scientific) respectively (see Fig. 18B), and 48h later analyzed for mRNA-expression of a-SMA, CTGF as fibrosis markers and IL-6 and IL-8 as inflammation markers via qRT-PCR.

[177] Additionally, overexpression of miR-671-5p stimulates migration of primary HCFs both with and without treatment with anti-fibrotic Bufalin.

For that, HCFs were transfected with miR-671 -5p mimic and incubated for 24h with 1 μΜ Bufalin. 48h after transfection, migratory behavior was studied in a Boyden Chamber assay (see Fig. 19). The Boyden chamber is a useful tool to study cell migration and cell invasion. It consists of a cylindrical cell culture insert nested inside the well of a cell culture plate. The insert contains a polycarbonate membrane at the bottom with a defined pore size. Cells are seeded in the top of the insert in serum-free media, while serum or similar chemoattractants are placed in the well below. Migratory cells move through the pores toward the chemoattractant below and can be stained or quantified in a plate reader. Invasive cells may be similarly measured by the placement of a coating of extracellular matrix proteins on top of the membrane.

First, 48h after transfection with miR-671-5p mimic and Bufalin, HCFs need to be DAPI stained. For that, medium is discarded and fresh medium is added (1 ml/6well; DAPI 1 μΙ/ml Medium (1 :1000)) with fluorescent dye (switch off the light). After incubation for 30min to 1 h at 37°C in the C02-incubator, the HTS Fluoro Blok inserts (8μιη size, BD Falcon #351 152) are prepared and coated. After microscopic control of the fluorescence, the cells are washed with 1 ml PBS. Then, the cells are trypsinized and centrifugated for 5 min at 200 x g, 4°C. Then, supernatant is discarded and the pellet is diluted in 250 μΙ Medium + 1 %BSA or 1 %FCS. After that, the cells should be counted and diluted to 5x10 4 - 1x10 5 in 200 μΙ Medium + 1 %BSA or 1 %FCS. Next, 700 μΙ Medium + VEGF + SDF or Medium + 10%FCS are aliquoted into each well of the 24-well companion plate and the (pretreated) inserts are hung into the medium. 200 μΙ cell suspension is pipetted in the middle of the insert and incubated 4 to 24 h (maximum), at 37°C in the C02- Inkubator (maybe control migration after 2 h). At a maximum of 24 h after seeding, microscopy can be done and pictures of the migrated cells can be taken.

[178] Example 12: miR-671 -5p is activated in murine and human fibrotic hearts.

[179] Expression of miR-671 -5p is increased in various murine heart failure (HF) models

(hypertension, pressure overload and allogenic heart transplantation).

Again, HF was induced in mice via implantation of angiotensin II filled minipumps (Example 3), Transverse Aortic Constriction (TAC) or allogenic transplantation of the hearts. The hearts were harvested at the indicated time points (n=3-7 per group).

Moreover, miR-671 -5p is activated in human hearts of aortic stenosis-patients. Cardiac biopsies were taken from left ventricles of patients undergoing aortic valve replacement due to aortic stenosis or healthy adult donor hearts not used for transplantation (n=6 per group). Increased levels of miR-671-5p (normalized to snoRNA-202 in murine and to RNU48 human heart tissue) were studied via qRT-PCR (see Fig. 20).

[180] Example 13: The circular RNA CDRIas is a direct target of miR-671-5p.

[181] Predicted consequential pairing of CDRI as and miR-671-5p in humans was done via www.targetscan.org/vert_71/. Divergent primers were used to specifically amplify the circular

RNA, which is highly abundant in HCFs as represented by low CT-values (see Fig. 21A).

Circularity of CDRI as was evidenced by resistance to exonuclease treatment that was 10-times fold higher than the resistance of the linear transcript of GAPDH (see Fig. 21 B).

Validation of miR-671-5p targeting CDRI as was done by qRT-PCR (normalized to 18S rRNA) after overexpression of miR-671 -5p in primary HCFs. For that, HCFs were transfected with miR-

671 -5p mimic and 48h later analyzed for CDRI as-expression (normalized to 18S rRNA) via qRT-PCR (see Fig. 21 C).

[182] Example 14: The circular RNA CDRIas is increased after treatment with identified antifibrotic compounds in HCFs and acts therefore as an anti-fibrotic circular RNA.

[183] Expression levels of CDRI as are increased in primary HCFs upon treatment with Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Lycorine, Anisomycin and Geldanamycin. HCFs were incubated for 24h with Bufalin (1 μΜ), Gitoxigenin (1 μΜ,) Lycorine (5μΜ), Anisomycin (1 μΜ) and Geldanamycin (1 μΜ) and upregulation of CDRI as (normalized to 18S rRNA) by the respective compound was validated via qRT-PCR (see Fig. 22).

[184] Further, strand-specific silencing of CDRI as via sisiRNA-chemistry leads to an increase in expression levels of the extracellular matrix component Collagen1 a1 in primary HCFs as shown in a representative Western Blot. sisiRNAs are small internally segmented interfering RNAs that allow strand-specific silencing of CDRI as, which is located perfectly antisense to the CDR1 coding gene. 48h after transfection HCFs were lysed and analyzed for Collagen1 a1 protein levels (normalized to GAPDH) (see Fig. 24).

[185] Example 15: The CDR1 mRNA encoded on the opposite strand of CDRIas changes discordantly to miR-671 -5p after treatment with identified anti-fibrotic compounds in HCFs.

[186] Expression levels of CDR1 mRNA change independently of miR-671-5p or CDRI as in primary HCFs upon treatment with Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Lycorine, Anisomycin and Geldanamycin. HCFs were incubated for 24h with Bufalin (1 μΜ), Gitoxigenin (1 μΜ,) Lycorine (5μΜ), Anisomycin (1 μΜ) and Geldanamycin (1 μΜ) and impact on CDR1 mRNA level (normalized to GAPDH) by the respective compound was validated via qRT-PCR (see Fig. 23).

[187] Example 16: Selenoprotein P is another direct target of miR-671-5p.

[188] Predicted consequential pairing of Selenoprotein P target region and miR-671 -5p in humans was done via www.targetscan.org/vert_71/ (see Fig. 25A). Validation of miR-671-5p targeting Selenoprotein P was assayed by luciferase activity and qRT-PCR after overexpression of miR-671 -5p. A HEK293 cell line and primary HCFs were transfected with miR-671 -5p mimic and 24h later analyzed for luciferase activity, or 48h later for Selenoprotein P-expression (normalized to 18S rRNA) via qRT-PCR, respectively (see Fig. 25B).

[189] Example 17: Administration of Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Lycorine and Anisomycin does not provoke any changes in plasma marker of kidney and liver damage and additionally Bufalin and Lycorine does not provoke any changes in kidney and liver morphology in vivo.

[190] Toxicological assessment of Bufalin, Gitoxigenin, Lycorine and Anisomycin in a murine model of Angiotensin ll-induced HF shows no elevation of plasma markers of kidney (creatinine and urea) and liver (Glutamate oxaloacetate transaminase (GOT) and Glutamate pyruvate transaminase (GPT)).

HF was induced in mice (Example 3) and Bufalin (0.5mg/kg), Gitoxigenin (0.01 mg/kg), Lycorine (4.5mg/kg), and Anisomycin (10mg/kg) were injected as indicated in Example 3. Fourteen days after the operation, EDTA-plasma samples were drawn (n=2-3 per group) (see Fig. 26 and 27).

[191] Additionally, toxicological assessment of Bufalin and Lycorine in a murine model of Angiotensin ll-induced HF does not induce necrosis, inflammation or any morphological changes in kidney and liver, respectively.

Again, HF was induced in mice (Example 3) and Bufalin (0.5mg/kg) as well as Lycorine (4.5mg/kg) were injected as indicated in Example 3. Fourteen days after the operation, kidneys and livers were subjected to histological assessment via Hematoxylin and Eosin (HE) and Periodic acid-Schiff (PAS) stain (n=2-4 per group) (see Fig. 28A and B).

[192] Example 18: Bufalin and Lycorine does not provoke any changes in kidney and liver morphology in vivo (therapeutic approach).

[193] HF was induced in mice (Example 5) and Bufalin (0,5mg/kg) as well as Lycorine (4,5mg/kg) were injected as indicated in Example 5. Eight weeks after the operation, kidneys and livers were subjected to histological assessment via Hematoxylin and Eosin (HE) and Periodic acid-Schiff (PAS) stain (n=4 per group).

[194] The data show that administration of Bufalin and Lycorine does not provoke any changes in kidney and liver morphology in vivo in mice (see Fig. 29).

[195] Example 19: Evaluation of myocardial and plasma concentrations of Bufalin and Lycorine in vivo.

[196] Plasma and hearts of C57BL/6N mice were harvested 9 minutes after injection with natural substances Bufalin (0,5mg/kg) or Lycorine (4,5mg/kg) (dissolved in DMSO). After extraction of the substances, Bufalin and Lycorine were quantified by liquid chromatography (LC) and quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (QTOF-MS) (see Fig. 30).

[197] The data show that the compounds, particularly Lycorine are effectively taken up by the heart evidenced by higher levels in the myocardium in comparison to the plasma after injection of the compounds.

[198] Example 20: Screening of chemical derivatives of Bufalin and Lycorine in vitro.

[199] The cells were incubated for 24h with 10μΜ Bufalin and Lycorine and with 10μΜ derivatives of Bufalin (derivatives 3, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 1 1 , 12, 13, 14, 16, 17, 18 and 25) and Lycorine (derivative 1 , 2, 4, 15, 19, 20, 21 , 22, 23, 24 and 26). Then, proliferation of HCFs was measured by BrdU-ELISA (see Fig. 31).

[200] The data show that the derivatives of the present invention are capable of preventing the proliferation of HCF such as the proliferation is prevented by Bufalin and Lycorine themselves. Preferably, Homoharringtonine (No. 19 in Fig. 31 ), a lycorine derivative, prevents the proliferation of HCF best.

[201] Example 21 : In vitro assessment of anti-fibrotic actions of Bufalin and Lycorine on non-cardiac fibroblasts.

[202] Cells of the rat renal fibroblast cell line NRK49F and primary human pulmonary fibroblasts (HPFs) were treated with Lycorine (1 μΜ, 5μΜ and 10μΜ) or Bufalin (0.1 μΜ, 1 μΜ, 10μΜ) for 24h and proliferation of respective fibroblasts was measured by BrdU-ELISA (see Fig. 39).

[203] It was shown, that Lycorine significantly inhibits proliferation of renal fibroblasts, but also of pulmonary fibroblasts. Additionally, Bufalin significantly inhibits only proliferation of pulmonary fibroblasts. Here, the most effective amount for Lycorine and Bufalin is 10μΜ.

[204] Thus, these results demonstrate that Bufalin and Lycorine also treat or prevent lung and kidney fibrosis.

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