Lay Summaries - Volume 75 Issue 5

Lay Summary:   Alcohol is the leading cause of death and illness due to liver disease. In this study, we assessed the ability of biomarkers to predict the risk of developing symptomatic liver disease in patients with early stages of alcohol-related liver disease. We found that several tests accurately predicted the risk of liver-related events such as ascites, esophageal varices and hepatic encephalopathy during an average follow-up of 4.1 years. Liver stiffness measurements by ultrasound elastography and the enhanced liver fibrosis test performed best. By using them, we were able to stratify patients into 3 groups with significantly different risks.
Lay Summary:   Alcohol-associated hepatitis is a condition where the liver is severely inflamed as a result of excess alcohol use. It is associated with high mortality and it is not clear whether the most commonly used treatments (corticosteroids) are effective, particularly in patients with very severe liver disease. In this worldwide study, the use of corticosteroids was associated with increased 30-day, but not 90- or 180-day, survival. The maximal benefit was observed in patients with an MELD score (a marker of severity of liver disease; higher scores signify worse disease) between 25-39. However, this benefit was lost in patients with the most severe liver disease (MELD score higher than 51).
Lay Summary:   Currently, the natural history and long-term risk of mortality in children and young adults with biopsy-confirmed non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is unknown. This nationwide cohort study compared the risk of all-cause and cause-specific mortality in pediatric and young adult patients in Sweden with biopsy-confirmed NAFLD to matched general population controls. We found that compared to controls, children and young adults with biopsy-confirmed NAFLD and NASH have significantly higher rates of overall, cancer-, liver- and cardiometabolic-specific mortality.
Lay Summary:   In a study of all young persons in Sweden with a liver biopsy consistent with fatty liver, the authors found that compared to matched controls, the risk of fatty liver was much higher in those with obese mothers. This was independent of available confounders and suggests that the high prevalence of obesity in younger persons might lead to a higher risk of fatty liver in their offspring.
Lay Summary:   We assessed the effect of treatment of hepatitis C virus infection with direct-acting antiviral drugs on deaths from all causes, liver disease and drug use. We found that treatment with direct-acting antiviral drugs is associated with substantial lowering in risk of death from all causes, liver disease and drug use among people with hepatitis C virus infection.
Lay Summary:   We assessed the effect of treatment of hepatitis C virus infection with direct-acting antiviral drugs on deaths from all causes, liver disease and drug use. We found that treatment with direct-acting antiviral drugs is associated with substantial lowering in risk of death from all causes, liver disease and drug use among people with hepatitis C virus infection.
Lay Summary:   T-cell engager antibodies are an interesting, novel therapeutic tool to restore immunity in patients with chronic hepatitis B. As bispecific antibodies, they bind envelope proteins on the surface of the hepatitis B virus (HBV) and CD3 or CD28 on T cells. This way, they induce a potent antiviral and cytotoxic T-cell response that leads to the elimination of HBV-positive cells. These bispecific T-cell engager antibodies are exciting therapeutic candidates for chronic hepatitis B and HBV-associated hepatocellular carcinoma.
Lay Summary:   Hepatitis B virus (HBV) infects hepatocytes and persists in the form of covalently closed circular DNA (cccDNA), which remains a major obstacle to successful antiviral treatment. In this study, using various HBV models, we demonstrate that the protein SART1 restricts HBV cccDNA transcription by suppressing a key transcription factor, HNF4α.
Lay Summary:   Hepatitis is one of the common immune-related adverse events in cancer patients receiving immune checkpoint inhibitor (ICI) therapy. The mechanisms of ICI-induced hepatitis are not well understood. In this paper, we identify key molecular mechanisms mediating immune intracellular crosstalk between liver T cells and macrophages in response to ICI in a mouse model.
Lay Summary:   There is no consensus on the definition of acute-on-chronic liver failure. European (EASL-CLIF) and North American (NACSELD) consortia have each proposed a commonly used definition. In this study, we compared the prevalence and short-term (30-day) mortality based on these definitions. Using a very large data set, we observed that there was a significant discordance in the prevalence and mortality based on these criteria. EASL-CLIF criteria appeared to be more sensitive to identify acute-on-chronic liver failure, and were better at predicting all-cause and short-term mortality.
Lay Summary:   Hepatitis B virus-related acute-on-chronic liver failure (HBV-ACLF) is a complex syndrome that is associated with a high short-term mortality rate. We developed a simplified prognostic score for patients suffering from this condition based on a prospective multicentre cohort. This new score had better predictive ability than 4 other commonly used scores.
Lay Summary:   Analysis of lipids in blood from patients with advanced cirrhosis reveals a general suppression of their levels in the circulation of these patients. A specific group of lipids known as sphingomyelins are useful to distinguish between patients with compensated and decompensated cirrhosis. Another group of lipids designated cholesteryl esters further distinguishes patients with decompensated cirrhosis who are at risk of developing organ failures.
Lay Summary:   We employed single-cell RNA-sequencing and functional assays to uncover the transcriptomic heterogeneity and intercellular crosstalk present in gallbladder cancer. We found that ErbB pathway mutations reduced anti-cancer immunity and led to cancer development. ErbB pathway mutations resulted in immunosuppressive macrophage differentiation and regulatory T cell activation, explaining the reduced anti-cancer immunity and worse overall survival observed in patients with these mutations.
Lay Summary:   Cancer stem cells (CSCs) contribute to a high rate of cancer recurrence, as well as resistance to conventional therapies. However, the regulatory mechanisms underlying their self-renewal remains elusive. Herein, we have reported that BEX1 plays a key role in regulating CSC properties in different types of liver cancer. Targeting BEX1-mediated Wnt/β-catenin signaling may help to address the high rate of recurrence, and heterogeneity of liver cancer.
Lay Summary:   When considering orthotopic liver transplantation for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma, optimum results are achieved when transplanting patients within the Milan criteria. However, the most appropriate strategy for patients who progress beyond these criteria while on the waiting list is still unclear. Herein, we show that transplantation is associated with acceptable overall survival in select patients who progress beyond the Milan criteria, although recurrence rates were notably higher. Therefore, the assessment of transplantation viability in these patients must consider the availability of organs and the impact on other patient categories.
Lay Summary:   Elucidating the mechanisms by which 24-norursodeoxycholic acid (NorUDCA) works for the treatment of immune-mediated liver diseases, such as primary sclerosing cholangitis, is of considerable clinical interest. Herein, we uncovered an unrecognized property of NorUDCA in the immunometabolic regulation of CD8+ T cells, which has therapeutic relevance for immune-mediated liver diseases, including PSC.