Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is the most common and most lethal type of idiopathic interstitial pneumonia. It is a chronic, aging-associated lung disease characterized by fibrotic foci and inflammatory infiltrates, with no cure and very limited therapeutic options. Although its etiology is unknown, several pathogenic pathways have been described that could explain this process, involving aging, environmental factors, genomic instability, loss of proteostasis, telomere attrition, epigenetic changes, mitochondrial dysfunction, cell senescence, and altered intercellular communication. One of the main prognostic factors for the development of IPF in broad epidemiological studies is age. The incidence increases with age, making this a disease that predominantly affects the elderly population, being exceptional under 45 years of age. However, the degree to which each of these mechanisms is involved in the etiology of the uncontrolled fibrogenesis that defines IPF is still unknown. Clarifying these questions is crucial to the development of points of intervention in the pathogenesis of the disease. This review briefly summarizes what is known about each possible etiological factor, and the questions that most urgently need to be addressed.
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