Lay Summaries - Volume 75 Issue 3
Lay Summary: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a common disease which can progress to cirrhosis and liver cancer. Increased levels of serum ferritin are often detected in patients with NAFLD and have been associated with altered iron metabolism and worse patient outcomes. We found that variants of genes related to iron metabolism, particularly ceruloplasmin, are associated with high ferritin levels, hepatic iron deposition and more severe liver disease in an Italian cohort of patients with NAFLD.
Lay Summary: Elucidating causal genes for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has been challenging due to limited tissue availability and the polygenic nature of the disease. Using liver and blood samples from 125 Korean individuals (83 with NAFLD and 42 without NAFLD), we devised a new analytic method to identify causal genes. Among the candidates, we found that AGXT2-rs2291702 protects against liver fibrosis in a genotype-dependent manner with the potential for therapeutic interventions. Our approach enables the discovery of causal genes that act on the basis of genotype.
Lay Summary: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is characterised by distinct changes in the liver lipidome with steatosis. The development of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) does not result in further changes in the lipidome. Lipids within body fat do not appear to influence the lipid profile of the liver or blood. Changes in liver lipids are paralleled by changes in blood lipids. This has potential to be developed into a non-invasive biomarker for NAFLD.
Lay Summary: Alcohol consumption has a significant impact on the progression of liver disease in people with HCV infections. Each alcoholic drink per day is associated with an increase in the risk of cirrhosis of 11%.
Lay Summary: We identified a negative association between socioeconomic development status and the burden of acute viral hepatitis. The lowest burden of acute viral hepatitis was noted for rich countries, whereas the highest burden of acute viral hepatitis was noted for poor countries.
Lay Summary: The hepatitis E virus (HEV) is a major cause of liver disease globally. Some genetic types (genotypes) of HEV persist in the body if immunity is impaired. Our objective was to identify immune responses that promote clearance of HEV. Findings indicate that HEV may be susceptible to multiple arms of the immune response that can act independently to terminate infection. They also provide a pathway to assess immune therapies for chronic HEV infection.
Lay Summary: The long-term efficacy of bezafibrate (BZF) on liver transplantation (LT) – free survival in patients with PBC and an incomplete response to ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) remains to be determined. In this Japanese nationwide retrospective cohort study, the use of UDCA-BZF combination therapy, compared to UDCA alone, was associated with a lower risk of all-cause and liver-related mortality or need for LT. These results indicate that BZF is so far the only drug in PBC to have demonstrated efficacy in improving symptoms, biochemical markers, and long-term outcomes.
Lay Summary: Primary biliary cholangitis (PBC) is a chronic liver disease that eventually leads to cirrhosis. In this study, we analysed genetic information from 10,516 people with PBC and 20,772 healthy individuals recruited in Canada, China, Italy, Japan, the UK, or the USA. We identified several genetic regions associated with PBC. Each of these regions contains several genes. For each region, we used diverse sources of evidence to help us choose the gene most likely to be involved in causing PBC. We used these ‘candidate genes’ to help us identify medications that are currently used for treatment of other conditions, which might also be useful for treatment of PBC.
Lay Summary: Falls are a devastating complication of cirrhosis. Bedside tools for predicting falls are lacking. We found that falls were very common and often associated with serious injuries. Falls were also associated with an increased risk of death. Falls could be predicted with an algorithm called FallSSS - based on prior history of falls, blood sodium level, number of chair-stands performed in 30 seconds, and quality of life.
Lay Summary: It is widely known that bacterial infections are common and increase the mortality risk in patients with decompensated cirrhosis. However, the relevance of bacterial infections in compensated cirrhosis has not been well studied. This study shows that in patients with compensated cirrhosis and clinically significant portal hypertension, bacterial infections occur as frequently as the development of ascites, which is the most frequent decompensating event. Bacterial infections increase the risk of progression to decompensation, mainly by increasing the risk of ascites, and also increase the risk of death, which usually occurs after decompensation.
Lay Summary: In patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma, almost all systemic therapies require very good liver function, i.e. Child-Pugh A status. The evidence from this study suggests that nivolumab shows clinical activity and an acceptable safety profile in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma with Child-Pugh B status who have mild to moderate impairment of liver function or liver decompensation that might rule out other therapies. Further studies are warranted to assess the safety and efficacy of nivolumab in this patient population.
Lay Summary: Acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF) is a severe clinical condition for which liver transplantation is an effective therapeutic option. This study has demonstrated that in Europe, referral and access to liver transplantation (LT) for patients with ACLF needs to be harmonised to avoid inequities. Post-LT survival for patients with ACLF was >80% after 1 year and some factors have been identified to help select patients with favourable outcomes.
Lay Summary: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) increases the risk of hepatobiliary carcinogenesis. However, the underlying mechanism remains unknown. Our study demonstrates that chronic inflammation suppresses hepatocyte expression of ESRP2, an adult RNA splicing factor that activates NF2. Thus, inactive (fetal) NF2 loses the ability to activate Hippo kinases, leading to the increased activity of downstream YAP/TAZ and promoting hepatobiliary carcinogenesis in chronically injured livers.
Lay Summary: Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) is a chronic cholestatic liver disease-associated with progressive inflammation of the bile duct, leading to fibrosis and end-stage liver disease. Bile acid (BA) toxicity may contribute to the development and disease progression of PSC. TGR5 is a membrane-bound receptor for BAs, which is found on bile ducts and protects bile ducts from BA toxicity. In this study, we show that TGR5 levels were reduced in bile ducts from PSC livers and in bile ducts from a genetic mouse model of PSC. Our investigations indicate that lower levels of TGR5 in bile ducts may contribute to PSC development and progression. Furthermore, treatment with norUDCA, a drug currently being tested in a phase III trial for PSC, restored TGR5 levels in biliary epithelial cells.
Lay Summary: Patients with SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2) infection often have liver injury, but why this occurs remains unknown. High levels of interleukin-6 (IL-6) and its circulating receptor, which form a complex to induce inflammatory signals, have been observed in patients with COVID-19. This paper demonstrates that the IL-6 signaling complex causes harmful changes to liver sinusoidal endothelial cells and may promote blood clotting and contribute to liver injury.