Lay Summaries - Volume 72 Issue 4

Lay Summary:  First-generation insulin sensitizers are used to treat type 2 diabetes, but are associated with side effects including edema, bone fractures, and hypoglycemia. MSDC-0602K is a second-generation insulin sensitizer designed to reduce these side effects. We hypothesized that insulin sensitization could improve non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. In the current study of patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, MSDC-0602K did not demonstrate significant effects on liver histology with the biopsy techniques used. However, useful information was gained for the design of future studies and MSDC-0602K significantly decreased fasting glucose, insulin, glycated hemoglobin, and markers of liver injury without dose-limiting side effects.
Lay Summary:  There are currently no pharmacological treatment options for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is now the most frequent liver disease. Necroptosis is a regulated process of cell death that can occur in hepatocytes during NAFLD. Herein, we show that RIPK1, a gatekeeper of the necroptosis pathway that is activated in NAFLD, can be inhibited by RIPA-56 to reduce not only liver injury, inflammation and fibrosis, but also steatosis in experimental models. These results highlight the potential of RIPK1 as a therapeutic target in NAFLD.
Lay Summary:  Patients with alcoholic hepatitis that is of intermediate severity have a low risk of short-term mortality but not much is known regarding long-term outcomes for these patients. This study clearly indicates that patients with intermediate disease characteristics have poor long-term outcomes. The presence of hepatic encephalopathy at the time of diagnosis and the absence of alcohol abstinence during follow-up are factors that predict poor long-term mortality.
Lay Summary:  Our findings demonstrate that although reinfection by hepatitis C virus occurs following successful treatment in people with recent drug use, the rate of hepatitis C reinfection is lower than the rates of primary infection reported in the literature for this population – reinfection should not be used as a reason to withhold therapy from people with ongoing injecting drug use. The rate of hepatitis C reinfection was lowest among people receiving opioid agonist therapy with no recent drug use. These data illustrate that harm reduction services are required to reduce the reinfection risk, while regular post-treatment hepatitis C assessment is required for early detection and retreatment.
Lay Summary:  A large community-based educate, test and treat hepatitis C programme was conducted in more than 200,000 villagers across 73 villages in Egypt. This study demonstrates that a simplified care model can achieve high uptake of testing, linkage to care and treatment, with high cure rates. We consider this a model for the elimination of hepatitis C virus infection in rural communities, which can be applied to other countries highly affected by hepatitis C.
Lay Summary:  Neutralising antibodies will likely form a key component of a protective hepatitis C virus vaccine. In this work we characterise the predominant neutralising and non-neutralising antibody (epitope) targets in acute hepatitis C virus infection. We have defined the natural hierarchy of epitope immunodominance, and demonstrated that viral genotype can impact on this hierarchy. Our findings highlight key epitopes that are associated with broadly neutralising antibodies, and the deleterious impact of mounting a response towards some of these domains on neutralising breadth. These findings should guide future efforts to design immunogens aimed at generating neutralising antibodies with a vaccine candidate.
Lay Summary:  This report describes progress in Georgia's hepatitis C elimination program and highlights efforts to promote hepatitis C virus screening and treatment initiation on a national scale. Georgia has made progress towards eliminating hepatitis C, treating over 50,000 people, approximately one-third of the number infected, and achieving cure for 98.5% of those tested. However, identifying infected individuals and linking them to care remains challenging. Novel approaches to increase diagnostic testing can have unintended consequences further down the care cascade.
Lay Summary:  Acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF), which develops in patients with cirrhosis, is characterized by intense systemic inflammation and organ failure(s). Because systemic inflammation is energetically expensive, its metabolic costs may result in organ dysfunction/failure. We identified a 38-metabolite blood fingerprint specific for ACLF that revealed mitochondrial dysfunction in peripheral organs. This may contribute to organ failures.
Lay Summary:  Fontan surgery is the standard of care for many patients with univentricular congenital cardiopathies. Recent advances have improved the survival of Fontan patients, and nowadays most of them reach adulthood. In this setting, Fontan-associated liver disease (FALD) is increasingly recognised, and has become a significant prognostic factor. Liver nodules are considered a component of FALD yet their prevalence, imaging features and predictors have hardly been evaluated. In this study, we observed that liver nodules are frequent, typically hyperechoic, hypervascular and predominantly peripheral in patients with FALD. This population is at risk of hepatocellular carcinoma, the diagnosis of which must be confirmed by biopsy.
Lay Summary:  Data from 2,523 patients who underwent resection for hepatocellular carcinoma were used to estimate the probability that resection would enable treated patients to achieve the same life expectancy as patients with chronic hepatitis and/or cirrhosis, and the general population. Herein, the cure model suggests that in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma, resection can enable patients to achieve the same life expectancy as those with chronic liver disease in 26.3% of cases and as the general population in 17.1% of cases.
Lay Summary:  Recently revised international guidelines for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) suggest that selected patients with inadequate surveillance on ultrasonography be assessed by alternative imaging modalities such as computed tomography or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Herein, we show that MRI without contrast agents performed significantly better than ultrasonography for HCC surveillance in high-risk patients. Given this good performance, as well as short scan times and the lack of contrast agent-associated risks, non-enhanced MRI is a promising option for HCC surveillance in high-risk patients.
Lay Summary:  Even with the recently approved immunotherapies against liver cancer, currently available medications show limited clinical benefits or efficacy in the majority of patients. As such, it remains a top priority to discover new targets for effective liver cancer treatment. Here, we identify a critical role for the proline biosynthetic pathway in liver cancer development, and demonstrate that targeting key proteins in the pathway, namely PYCR1 and ALDH18A1, may be a novel therapeutic strategy for liver cancer.
Lay Summary:  A mouse model combining chronic liver injury, acute hepatic insult, and bacterial infection recapitulates some of the key features of acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF) in patients. Both fibrosis and bacterial infection contribute to the impaired regenerative capacity of the liver in patients with ACLF. Herein, we show that IL-22Fc therapy improves ACLF by reprogramming impaired regenerative pathways and attenuating bacterial infection. Thus, it may have therapeutic potential for patients with ACLF.
Lay Summary:  The early stages of human liver development were modeled using human hepatic organoids. We identified a pathway that was essential for early liver development. Based upon this finding, a novel combination drug therapy was identified that could be used to treat primary liver cancer and possibly other types of cancer.
Lay Summary:  Mucin 13 overexpression has been implicated in the development of malignancies, although its role in intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma has not been studied. Herein, we show that mucin 13 plays a critical role in intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma. Mucin 13 could have therapeutic value both as a prognostic marker and as a treatment target.