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The role of the liver in diseases


Recent animal studies, at institutions in Spain, have highlighted the importance of the liver when studying diseases.


Researchers at Pompeu Fabra University (UPF), Barcelona, along with IRB Barcelona, and the University of California, Irvine, USA, studied the circadian rhythms (an organism’s 24-hour time-keeping system) of the liver and skeletal muscle together and found they were important in controlling glucose metabolism – a process that breaks down the carbohydrates we eat and converts them into energy.


The team saw that daily cycles of feeding and fasting in mice was key to synchronising the two ‘clocks’ and therefore restoring control of glucose metabolism.


Pura Muñoz-Cánoves at UPF said: “We believe this finding may hold promise for the treatment of human diseases such as diabetes, in which this liver-muscle network may be targeted for therapeutic gain, and for other age-related disorders.”


Meanwhile, a team at the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) looked at the livers of both healthy mice and those with characteristics akin to Alzheimer’s disease, which have opened up new ways to understand the disease.


The brain is the most-studied organ in Alzheimer’s research, but it is thought that disease development could also be affected by inflammation and toxic imbalances in the body, of which the liver is an important regulator.


The study saw that the diseased mice had faulty livers (they were enlarged the cells were inflamed), as well as changes in their behaviour caused by alterations in the liver-brain axis which links the two organs.

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