Lay Summaries - Volume 72 Issue 1

Lay Summary: We conducted a survey on non-alcoholic fatty liver disease with experts in European countries, coupled with data extracted from official documents on policies, clinical guidelines, awareness, and monitoring. We found a general lack of national policies, awareness campaigns and civil society involvement, and few epidemiological registries.
Lay Summary: Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis is a chronic liver disease that is associated with an increased risk of developing cirrhosis and cardiovascular disease. Recently, obeticholic acid (OCA), a farnesoid X receptor agonist, improved liver disease but led to an increase in cholesterol. However, the impact of OCA on cholesterol is not well understood. In the present study, we show that OCA therapy is associated with a detrimental increase in lipoprotein levels, which improves after drug discontinuation.
Lay Summary: Protection of viral infection necessitates the production of antibodies that are generated by specialized cells of the immune system called B cells. During chronic HBV infection, antibodies against the internal part of the virus (core or HBcAg) are detectable while the antibodies directed against the virus envelope (surface or HBsAg) are not present. Here we developed a method that allows us to directly visualize ex vivo the B cells specific for these 2 viral components, highlighting their differences and similarities, and showing how 2 components of the same virus can have different impacts on the function of antiviral B cells.
Lay Summary: TNF-α producing cells are the dominant population of hepatitis B virus (HBV)-specific CD4 T cells in patients with chronic HBV infection. This population of cells might contribute to the aggravation of liver damage in patients with a hepatitis B flare. HBV-specific IFN-γ producing CD4 T cells are associated with HBV viral clearance. Differentiation from HBV-specific TNF-α producing CD4 T cells into HBV-specific IFN-γ producing CD4 T cells might favor HBV viral clearance.
Lay Summary: It is important to know the hepatitis B virus (HBV) status before starting corticosteroid therapy. Patients with resolved HBV infection without detectable immunity are at an increased risk of HBV surface antigen seroreversion after corticosteroid therapy. High peak daily doses of corticosteroids (>40 mg prednisolone equivalents) increase the risk of hepatitis flare, but not seroreversion, in patients with previous exposure to HBV, irrespective of the duration of treatment. Interval monitoring of liver biochemistries is essential for the early detection of hepatitis flares in these patients.
Lay Summary: Delivering hepatitis C virus (HCV) testing to people who inject drugs (PWID) in places where they also have access to HIV prevention and treatment services is an effective way to improve uptake of HCV testing among communities of PWID. To achieve the World Health Organization’s ambitious elimination targets, integrated programs will need to be scaled up to deliver comprehensive HCV services.
Lay Summary: Liver resection for hepatocellular carcinoma in advanced cirrhosis (Child-Pugh B score) is associated with a high rate of postoperative complications. However, due to the limited therapeutic alternatives in this setting, recent studies have shown promising results after accurate patient selection. In our international multicenter study, we provide 3 clinical models to predict postoperative surgical risks and long-term survival following liver resection, with the aim of improving treatment allocation and eventually clinical outcomes.
Lay Summary: Transfusion of fresh frozen plasma in patients with cirrhosis only slightly improves coagulation test values in a limited number of patients and even appears to worsen them in a third of cases. Transfusion for the purpose of preventing or treating bleeding events could cause inherent risks and costs without clear benefits.
Lay Summary: Cholangiocarcinoma (CCA) is a cancer arising in the bile ducts inside (intrahepatic CCA) and connected to the liver (extrahepatic CCA). It is a very aggressive cancer: 95% of patients die within 5 years. CCA rates are increasing globally, but the causes of CCA are poorly understood. The few risk factors that are known account for only a minority of cases. In this study, we found that the strongest risk factors for both intrahepatic and extrahepatic CCA are cysts and stones in the bile ducts, cirrhosis, and hepatitis B and C viruses. Some risk factors for CCA, such as diabetes, although less strong, are increasing globally and may be contributing to rising rates of CCA.
Lay Summary: The prognosis for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma is poor, partly because of the lack of effective treatment options for those with more advanced disease. In this study, we identified a subpopulation of cancer cells with stem cell-like properties that were critical for tumor maintenance and growth in a mouse model of hepatocellular carcinoma. Through further experiments, we demonstrated that the Jak/Stat pathway is a promising therapeutic target in hepatocellular carcinoma.
Lay Summary: The presence of hepatocellular adenoma in pregnant women requires special consideration, as it carries the risk of growth and haemorrhage. In this study we followed 48 patients with hepatocellular adenoma <5 cm during 51 pregnancies and found that a hepatocellular adenoma during pregnancy confers minimal risk to the pregnant woman and none to her child.
Lay Summary: Clathrin heavy-chain expression increases during liver tumorigenesis in humans (CLTC) and mice (Cltc), altering the cellular response to TGF-β in favour of anti-apoptotic/pro-tumorigenic signals. A positive correlation between TGFB1 and CLTC was found in HCC cells and patients. Patients expressing high levels of TGFB1 and CLTC had a worse prognosis and lower overall survival. CLTC expression in HCC human samples could help select patients that would benefit from therapies targeting TGF-β.
Lay Summary: Biliary atresia is a disease that affects newborns and is characterized by extrahepatic bile duct injury and obstruction, resulting in liver injury. We identify 4 key differences between the epithelial and submucosal layers of the neonatal and adult extrahepatic bile duct and show that these may render the neonatal duct particularly susceptible to injury.
Lay Summary: Patients with acute liver injury due to acetaminophen overdose have highly elevated levels of the platelet-adhesive protein von Willebrand factor. It is not known whether von Willebrand factor plays a direct role in the progression of acute liver injury. We discovered that von Willebrand factor delays repair of the acetaminophen-injured liver in mice and that targeting von Willebrand factor, even in mice with established liver injury, accelerates liver repair.
Lay Summary: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), a condition highly prevalent in obese and/or diabetic patients, is emerging as an independent risk factor of cardiovascular disease. Herein, we demonstrated that extracellular vesicles, released by hepatocytes under NAFLD conditions, cause vascular endothelial inflammation and promote atherosclerosis. Within these toxic vesicles, we identified a small molecular cargo that acted as a potent inducer of endothelial inflammation. By inhibiting this cargo’s function, a specific gene-based inhibitor profoundly attenuated atherogenesis in mice, uncovering a novel mechanism which may be used to prevent or treat cardiovascular disease in patients with NAFLD.