Several US research groups have found new information about one of the most common liver diseases, based on studies in mice.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), is estimated to affect more than 30% of the world’s population.
It results in the build-up of fat in the liver, which can range from being harmless to causing potentially severe liver damage, failure or cancer – but it is still not known why.
Researchers at the University of Virginia (UVA) – who previously identified that ‘wrinkles’ in cells can lead to NAFLD developing in mice – have now verified that these wrinkles are also found in the liver cells of people with the disease.
Meanwhile, a study at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, has discovered a type of mouse liver cell that contributes to NAFLD, and shown that this is also the case in human NAFLD liver cells.
In another study, researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign investigated a form of NAFLD that is currently not well understood – non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). The team saw that by switching off a gene called SRSF1, mice developed the key features of NASH, such as inflammation and scarring in the liver.
Auinash Kalsotra (pictured), at the university, explained the disease could now be studied more accurately: “We want to see whether there are certain conditions where SRSF1 has been inactivated in some way in human livers or other animals.”