Lay Summaries - Volume 70 Issue 3

Lay Summary: In chronic hepatitis B virus infection, natural killer (NK)-cell phenotype and function is altered. In this study, we demonstrate that these changes are linked to the emergence of a distinct NK-cell subset, namely memory-like NK cells. The emergence of these memory-like NK cells is associated with coinfection of human cytomegalovirus that affects the majority of patients with chronic hepatitis B.
Lay Summary: We investigated 20,263 nucleos(t)ide analogue (NA)-treated patients with chronic hepatitis B. Patients with NA-induced hepatitis B surface antigen seroclearance on top of complete viral suppression have a lower risk of hepatocellular carcinoma but not hepatic events than those only achieving complete viral suppression under prolonged NA treatment.
Lay Summary: Chronic hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a global health problem, which can now be treated with potent direct-acting antiviral drugs. This study demonstrates that HCV infection in childhood causes serious liver disease in 32% of patients, a median of 33?years after infection, irrespective of age, mode and route of infection. Disease outcomes were better in patients treated before the development of advanced liver disease. Antiviral therapy should be made available in childhood to prevent long-term liver disease and the spread of HCV.
Lay Summary: A large number of patients with hepatitis C virus have been treated with glecaprevir/pibrentasvir (G/P) within the NAVIGATORE-Lombardia Network, in Italy. This is the first real-world study evaluating effectiveness and safety of G/P in patients with hepatitis C virus treated according to international recommendations. This study demonstrated excellent effectiveness (with sustained virological response rates of 99.3%) and safety profiles.
Lay Summary: Among all clinically relevant hepatitis C virus protease inhibitors, voxilaprevir and glecaprevir showed the highest and most uniform activity against cell culture infectious hepatitis C virus with genotype 1-6 proteases. Naturally occurring amino acid changes at protease position 80 had low fitness cost and influenced sensitivity to simeprevir, but not to other protease inhibitors in short-term treatment assays. Nevertheless, the pre-existing change Q80K had the potential to promote viral escape from protease inhibitors during long-term treatment by rapid co-selection of additional resistance changes, detected by next generation sequencing.
Lay Summary: Infections caused by bacteria resistant to the main antibiotic families are prevalent in patients with cirrhosis. This study demonstrates that this healthcare problem is increasing and extends through all European regions. Infections caused by these difficult to treat bacteria resolve less frequently and often cause the death of the patient. The type of resistant bacteria varies markedly among different hospitals.
Lay Summary: Non-selective beta-blockers are the mainstay of primary prophylaxis to prevent variceal bleeding in patients with cirrhosis and high-risk esophageal varices. This prospective study showed that a prediction model based on changes in spleen stiffness before vs. after dose titration might be a non-invasive marker for response to prophylactic non-selective beta-blocker (carvedilol) therapy in patients with cirrhosis and high-risk esophageal varices.
Lay Summary: Macro-vacuolar liver steatosis is a major prognostic factor for outcomes after liver transplantation. However, it is often difficult for logistical reasons to get this estimation during procurement. Therefore, we developed an algorithm for a commercial, portable and affordable spectrometer to accurately estimate this content in a real-time fashion. This device could be of great interest for clinical decision-making to accept or discard a potential human liver graft.
Lay Summary: Acute liver injury due to heatstroke can progress to acute liver failure with organ dysfunction despite medical treatment; in such situations, liver transplantation (LT) may offer a therapeutic option. The classic criteria for LT appear to be poorly adapted to heatstroke-related acute liver failure. We confirmed that medication is the first-line therapy acute liver injury caused by heatstroke, with LT only rarely necessary. A decision to perform LT should not be made hastily. Fluctuations in prothrombin time and the patient’s clinical status should be considered even in the event of severe liver failure.
Lay Summary: The main result of this study is that spleen stiffness measurement, evaluated by transient elastography, seems to be the only predictor of the late recurrence of hepatocellular carcinoma, defined as recurrence after 24?months from liver resection. Indeed, spleen stiffness measurement is directly correlated with the degree of liver disease and portal hypertension, which are both involved in carcinogenesis.
Lay Summary: Cytokine-induced killer cells are a mixture of immune cells given to eliminate cancer cells. However, not all patients respond to this treatment. Herein, we show in 2 different liver cancer models that myeloid-derived suppressor cells are increased in response to cytokine-induced killer cell therapy. Targeting these myeloid-derived suppressor cells may provide an additional therapeutic benefit alongside cytokine-induced killer cell therapy.
Lay Summary: Liver endothelial cells are the first liver cell type affected after any kind of liver injury. The loss of their unique phenotype during injury amplifies liver damage by orchestrating the response of the liver microenvironment. Autophagy is a mechanism involved in the regulation of this initial response and its manipulation can modify the progression of liver damage.
Lay Summary: Receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) are among signals frequently deregulated in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma and their deregulation confers essential biological properties to cancer cells. We have applied a genetic method to randomly mutate large numbers of genes in the context of a mouse model with increased RTK levels, predisposed to develop liver cancer. We identified mechanisms that accelerate tumour formation in cooperation with enhanced RTK levels. The wide array of cellular functions among these cooperators illustrates an extraordinary capability of RTKs to render the liver more vulnerable to additional alterations, by priming cells for tumour initiation.
Lay Summary: We present for the first time, the clinical and laboratory effects of a first-in-class, engineered analogue of the endocrine hormone FGF19 in patients with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC). By incorporating non-invasive markers of fibrosis, beyond standard liver injury markers, we show that NGM282 impacted on fibrosis turnover and hepatic inflammation without changing alkaline phosphatase. Our findings demonstrate the complexities of using highly potent rational agents in PSC, and furthermore challenge the dogma about what the appropriate endpoints should be for trials in PSC.
Lay Summary: Irisin is a novel protein produced mainly by muscle, which is known to be released into the circulation, with an unclear role in liver fat deposition. This study demonstrates that genetic variants in the gene encoding the irisin protein modulate the risk of liver fat in patients with fatty liver disease. Interestingly, these effects are independent of, but additive to those of other recently described genetic variants that contribute to liver fat. In functional studies, we have deciphered the detailed molecular mechanisms by which this genetic variant mediates its effects.