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Liver disease: Doctor discusses causes and symptoms

As its name suggests, fatty liver disease is caused by an excess of fat in the liver. In its earliest stages it often doesn’t display symptoms, meaning people might not be aware they have it. However, as it becomes more severe it begins to affect the organ – with the potential to cause dangerous scarring and inflammation.

Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, which is also known as NASH, is the second stage of fatty liver disease.

It is more serious at this point, with the liver being inflamed.

If this continues it can eventually develop into cirrhosis, where the liver becomes scarred, lumpy and shrivelled and can lead to liver failure.

There is currently no medicinal treatment for fatty liver disease, tips for cymbalta withdrawal although there are medicines that can tackle the side effects.

In most cases of fatty liver disease, patients will be advised to make appropriate lifestyle changes such as losing weight, exercising more and quitting smoking.

But now researchers believe they could have found a drug that could successfully treat NASH.

Researchers at Michigan Medicine have developed an amino acid compound called DT-109 that was shown to reverse fat buildup and prevent scarring in the livers of both mice and primates that had NASH.

The study, completed in partnership with an international team including the Laboratory Animal Centre at Xi’an Jiaotong University Health Science Centre and the Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences at Peking University Health Science Centre, is published in Cell Metabolism.

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Senior author Eugene Chen said: “For years, scientists have been trying to develop a medication that treats NASH, but many attempts have failed to show an improvement or have raised safety concerns in clinical trials.

“NASH is rising at a staggering rate, and successful treatment of non-human primates with our drug candidate, DT-109, brings us closer than ever to treating the millions of people suffering from this condition.”

NASH has become the primary cause of chronic liver disease worldwide, and NASH-related cirrhosis is now one of the most common reasons for liver transplantation.

Chen and his team developed DT-109 for treating NASH in non-human primates after reports showed that impaired glycine metabolism emerged as a cause of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and NASH.

In both non-human primates and mice, investigators in the international collaboration found that treatment with DT-109 reverses fat buildup and prevents fibrosis progression by stimulating fatty acid degradation and antioxidant formation.

The drug also inhibited the production of lithocholic acid, a toxic secondary bile acid closely linked to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

“With this significant breakthrough in preclinical models, we can now consider evaluating DT-109 as a potential drug candidate for the treatment of NASH in future clinical trials,” said Jifeng Zhang, co-corresponding author.

“With millions of people suffering from NASH, the need for an effective treatment is more pressing than ever.”

Most people with fatty liver disease do not display symptoms initially.

But if it progresses to NASH it can cause:

  • A dull or aching pain in the top right of the tummy (over the lower right side of the ribs)
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Weakness.

The NHS adds: “If cirrhosis (the most advanced stage) develops, you can get more severe symptoms, such as yellowing of the skin and the whites of the eyes (jaundice), itchy skin, and swelling in the legs, ankles, feet or tummy (oedema).”

If you think you have fatty liver disease you should speak to your doctor.

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