Researchers in Sweden are planning the clinical trial of a new treatment for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and type 2 diabetes which harnesses liver cells’ own ability to burn accumulated fats. In a study involving 86 people with varying degrees of fatty liver disease, researchers from the KTH Royal Institute of Technology’s Science for Life Laboratory (SciLifeLab) research center and Gothenburg University found that the liver has the ability to burn up accumulated fats. The researchers propose a mixture of substances that will set this process in motion. One of the most common chronic liver problems in the world, the accumulation of fat in the liver (hepatic steatosis) is the key characteristic of NAFLD. It is linked to obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular diseases. Up to 30 percent of subjects with NAFLD develop non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) in which hepatic inflammation and scarring can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. The researchers mapped the metabolic changes caused by accumulated fat in 86 patients’ liver cells, and combined this data with an analysis of a genome-scale model of liver tissue. Doing so enabled them to identify the precise metabolic changes individual patients’ liver cells undergo due to fat. The results were published online on February 3, 2017 in Molecular Systems Biology. The open-access article is titled “Personal Model‐Assisted Identification of NAD+ and Glutathione Metabolism As Intervention Target in NAFLD.” Lead author Dr. Adil Mardinoglu, a systems biologist at KTH and a SciLifeLab fellow, is one of the researchers who had earlier established a connection between NAFLD and low levels of the antioxidant, glutathione (GSH).
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