Lay Summaries - Volume 74 Issue 3

Lay Summary:  Herein, we show that a specific chemokine axis involving a receptor (CCR9) and its ligand (CCL25) contributes to the progression of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis and carcinogenesis in humans and mice. Furthermore, treatment with a CCR9 antagonist ameliorates the development of steatohepatitis and holds promise for the treatment of patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.
Lay Summary:  Current antiviral therapies for hepatitis B are not curative because of their inability to eliminate covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA), which persists in the nuclei of infected cells. HBV X (HBx) protein has an important role in regulating cccDNA transcription. Thus, targeting HBx to silence cccDNA transcription could be an important curative strategy. We identified that the small molecule dicoumarol could block cccDNA transcription by promoting HBx degradation; this is a promising therapeutic strategy for the treatment of chronic hepatitis B.
Lay Summary:  Hepatitis B infection is a major cause of death from liver disease and liver cancer globally. To reduce deaths from hepatitis B infection, we need more people to be tested and treated for hepatitis B. In this paper, we outline a framework of activities to reduce hepatitis B-related deaths and discuss ways in which governments could pay for them.
Lay Summary:  Bile acid induces liver injury by stimulating the expression of inflammatory genes in hepatocytes through activation of the transcription factor NFAT. Blocking this activation in vitro (in hepatocyte cultures) and in vivo (in cholestatic mice) decreased the expression of inflammatory genes and reduced liver injury.
Lay Summary:  Onasemnogene abeparvovec is a type of medicine called a “gene therapy,” which is used to treat babies and young children who have a rare, serious inherited condition called “spinal muscular atrophy” (SMA). It works by supplying a fully functioning copy of the survival motor neuron or SMN gene, which then helps the body produce enough SMN protein. However, it can cause an immune response that could lead to an increase in enzymes produced by the liver. This article provides information about the liver injury and how to prevent and recognize if it happens, so that it may be treated properly.
Lay Summary:  This international registry study demonstrates that patients with cirrhosis are at increased risk of death from COVID-19. Mortality from COVID-19 was particularly high among patients with more advanced cirrhosis and those with alcohol-related liver disease.
Lay Summary:  Renal impairment has a very negative impact on patients with cirrhosis. Renal impairment seems to be characterized by a very dynamic course, which is defined according to renal function and length of the impairment as acute kidney injury, acute kidney disease and chronic kidney disease. The role of acute kidney disease is currently unknown. Our study shows for the first time that acute kidney disease is frequent in patients with cirrhosis and has a very negative impact on survival.
Lay Summary:  Esophageal varices have important prognostic implications in patients with cirrhosis. Thus, their timely identification is important so that treatment can be initiated early. Herein, we validated the excellent performance of the combination of Baveno VI criteria with spleen stiffness measurement (cut-off 46 kPa) for ruling out high-risk esophageal varices in patients with HBV-related cirrhosis under maintained viral suppression (with antiviral treatment). This combined model was able to safely rule out high-risk varices (missed/total <5%) and over half (61.6%) of esophagogastroduodenoscopy procedures were spared.
Lay Summary:  Liver disease is a common and critical complication in patients with intestinal failure, who require intravenous nutrition for survival due to severe intestinal dysfunction. We showed that both intravenous nutrition dependency and intestinal disruption essentially predicted development of active histopathological liver disease, which persisted in 25% of patients during long-term follow-up and could be accurately detected without the need for liver biopsy. Identification of the active and potentially progressive histopathology offers new possibilities for monitoring and targeted liver protection in patients with intestinal failure.
Lay Summary:  Radiofrequency ablation is the standard of care for patients with small hepatocellular carcinoma in whom surgery is not feasible. This study is the first phase III randomized controlled trial to evaluate the clinical outcomes of proton beam radiotherapy vs. radiofrequency ablation in patients with recurrent small HCC. Our findings show that this new technique is not inferior and can be applied safely in patients with small recurrent hepatocellular carcinoma.
Lay Summary:  The Notch signaling pathway is known to be involved in the pathogenesis of liver fibrosis. However, its role in liver cancer has not been well defined. Herein, we show that Notch activity is increased in a subset of liver cancers and is associated with poor outcomes. We also used a mouse model to show that aberrant Notch activity can drive cancer progression in obese mice.
Lay Summary:  Tumor-associated macrophages (TAMs) have been reported to play an essential role in both tumor progression and therapeutic response. A fundamental understanding of the mechanisms that regulate macrophage accumulation in tumors will undoubtedly lead to the development of strategies to target macrophages with high specificity and efficiency. The current study unveils a novel mechanism by which local proliferation is linked to macrophage accumulation in the tumor milieu, identifying potential targets for future immune-based anticancer therapies.
Lay Summary:  The KEAP1 (Kelch-like ECH-associated protein-1)/NRF2 (erythroid 2-related factor 2) axis has a major role in regulating cellular redox balance. Herein, we show that NRF2 activity correlates with the grade of inflammation in patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. Functional studies in mice actually show that NRF2 activation, resulting from KEAP1 deletion, protects against fibrosis and cancer.
Lay Summary:  Patients with advanced cirrhosis often fail to generate protective immunity after prophylactic vaccinations and suffer from recurring infections that are associated with high mortality. Follicular T helper (Tfh) cells are specialized CD4 T cells that enable the emergence of antibody responses against microbial pathogens. This report demonstrates that Tfh cells are impaired in patients with advanced cirrhosis due to interleukin-2 signaling, a cytokine that is known to impair the generation of Tfh cells.
Lay Summary:  Post-hepatectomy portal hypertension is a major cause of liver failure and death, but no tool is available to accurately anticipate this potentially lethal complication for a given patient. Herein, we propose using a mathematical model to predict the portocaval gradient at the end of liver resection. We tested this model on a cohort of 47 patients undergoing major hepatectomy and demonstrated that it could modify current surgical decision-making algorithms.