Lay Summaries - Volume 75 Issue 2

Lay Summary:  Patients with alcohol-related cirrhosis can improve until being delisted in approximately 9% of cases. Low model for end-stage liver disease score and high platelet levels at admission predict delisting after improvement, and women have higher probabilities of being delisted due to improvement. Long-term outcomes after delisting are generally favorable.
Lay Summary:  There are no prospective studies to determine how common is nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), the severe form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). In a large number of asymptomatic middle-aged Americans, we used a combination of state-of-the-art liver imaging methods and liver biopsy to prospectively determine the prevalence of NAFLD and NASH. NAFLD was diagnosed in 38%, NASH in 14%, and significant liver fibrosis in 6% of asymptomatic middle-aged Americans.
Lay Summary:  The fat content in skeletal muscles is highly reflective of the severity of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) in patients with morbid obesity. In particular, muscle fat content is strongly associated with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) and decreases upon NASH improvement. These data indicate that muscle fatty infiltration could be a marker and possible pathophysiological contributor to NASH.
Lay Summary:  A fully automated, novel high-sensitivity hepatitis B core-related antigen assay (iTACT-HBcrAg) has been developed. iTACT-HBcrAg can be used to monitor HBeAg-negative patients with chronic hepatitis B, as well as for the early detection of HBV reactivation. iTACT-HBcrAg could be used as a general marker of disease progression and treatment response.
Lay Summary:  HDV requires the envelope protein of HBV for assembly and to infect human cells. We investigated the ability of different HDV genotypes to infect cells and replicate. We also assessed the effect that envelope proteins from different HBV genotypes had on HDV infectivity and replication. Herein, we confirmed that genotypic differences in HDV and HBV envelope proteins are major determinants of HDV assembly, de novo cell entry and consequently the efficacy of novel antivirals.
Lay Summary:  This study looked to see if measuring the breakdown products of a medication used in autoimmune hepatitis increases the chances of gaining good control of the disease, when compared to a group of patients who were on a dose of this medication based on their weight. A group of 214 patients with autoimmune hepatitis were split into 2 groups: roughly half had their medication dose adjusted according to measurements of breakdown products in the blood, whilst the other half received their weight-based dose as normal. The results confirmed that using a personalised approach and checking drug breakdown products resulted in fewer side effects and potentially improved control of disease.
Lay Summary:  In this study, we investigated whether drug properties and clinical factors are associated with the time it takes to recover from drug-induced liver injury (DILI). We found that total bilirubin, alkaline phosphatase level at DILI onset, time to onset, and extent of drug metabolism were consistently associated with recovery time. Using these factors, we built a model to predict the trajectory of recovery from DILI and validated this model in 2 independent cohorts. Our findings offer important insights into the factors influencing the trajectory of recovery from DILI. Additional investigations and longer follow-ups can be planned in those for whom a delayed recovery is predicted.
Lay Summary:  Bacterial infections develop during hospitalization in close to 20% of patients with acute variceal bleeding despite antibiotic prophylaxis. Respiratory bacterial infections are the most frequent and occur early after admission. Respiratory infection is associated with advanced liver disease, severe hepatic encephalopathy and a need for a nasogastric tube, orotracheal intubation for endoscopy or esophageal balloon tamponade.
Lay Summary:  Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (iCCA) is a rare cancer that is difficult to treat. A subtype of iCCA is caused by genomic alterations that generate oncogenic drivers known as FGFR2 fusions. Patients with FGFR2 fusions respond to FGFR inhibitors, but clinical responses are often of modest duration. We used animal and cellular models to show that FGFR2 fusions require the activity of a downstream effector named Mek1/2. We found that dual blockade of FGFR2 fusions and Mek1/2 was more effective than isolated inhibition of FGFR2 fusions, pointing to the potential clinical utility of dual FGFR2-MEK1/2 blockade in patients with iCCA.
Lay Summary:  Understanding the molecular mechanisms involved in cholangiocarcinoma (bile duct cancer) development and progression stands as a critical step for the development of novel therapies. Through an inter-species approach, this study provides evidence of the clinical and functional role of the transcription factor FOSL1 in cholangiocarcinoma. Moreover, we report that downstream effectors of FOSL1 are susceptible to pharmacological inhibition, thus providing new opportunities for therapeutic intervention.
Lay Summary:  Alcohol metabolism in liver sinusoidal endothelial cells (LSECs) and the mechanism of alcohol-induced LSEC dysfunction are largely unknown. Herein, we demonstrate that LSECs can metabolize alcohol. We also uncover a mechanism by which alcohol induces LSEC dysfunction and liver injury, and we identify a potential therapeutic strategy to prevent this.
Lay Summary:  Dysfunctional fat tissue plays an important role in the development of fatty liver disease and liver injury. Our present study identifies a mitochondrial transporter, mDIC, which tightly controls the release of free fatty acids from adipocytes to the liver through the export of succinate from mitochondria. We believe this mDIC-succinate axis could be targeted for the treatment of fatty liver disease.
Lay Summary:  Bile acid homeostasis can be impaired in cholestatic liver diseases. Our study identified a novel mechanism of positive feedback regulation in cholestasis. LIX1L and miR-191-3p represent potential therapeutic targets for cholestatic liver diseases.
Lay Summary:  The composition of intrahepatic immune cells in primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) and their contribution to disease pathogenesis is widely unknown. We analysed intrahepatic T cells and identified a previously uncharacterized population of liver-resident CD4+ T cells which are expanded in the livers of patients with PSC compared to healthy liver tissue and other liver diseases. These cells are likely to contribute to the pathogenesis of PSC and could be targeted in novel therapeutic approaches.
Lay Summary:  While acute liver failure can be reversible, some patients will die without a liver transplant. We show that blood test markers that measure the potential for liver recovery may help improve identification of patients unlikely to survive acute liver failure who may benefit from a liver transplant.
Lay Summary:  The Pfizer-BioNTech BNT162b2 SARS-CoV-2 vaccine elicited substantially inferior immunity in liver transplant recipients. Less than half of the patients developed sufficient levels of antibodies against the virus, and in those who were positive, average antibody levels were 2x less compared to healthy controls. Factors predicting non-response were older age, renal function and immunosuppressive medications.
Lay Summary:  The development of vaccines against coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has progressed rapidly, with encouraging safety and efficacy data. This study now shows that the inactivated COVID-19 vaccine appears to be safe with good immunogenicity in the large population of patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.