Lay Summaries - Volume 76 Issue 1

Lay Summary:  We show that autophagy-related gene 3 (ATG3) contributes to the progression of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in humans and mice. Hepatic knockdown of ATG3 ameliorates the development of NAFLD by stimulating mitochondrial function. Thus, ATG3 is an important factor implicated in steatosis.
Lay Summary:  Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is one of the most common causes of liver disease worldwide. Diagnosing NAFLD and identifying fibrosis (scarring of the liver) currently requires a liver biopsy. Our study identified novel proteins found in the blood which may identify fibrosis without the need for a liver biopsy.
Lay Summary:  Using a panel of assays to characterise hepatitis B surface antibody (anti-HBs) responses in a group of patients with chronic hepatitis B, we identified anti-HBs profiles associated with either functional cure, or failure to achieve functional cure. Functional cure was associated with immune complex peaks which overlapped with alanine aminotransferase flares. Conversely, in those who did not achieve functional cure, immune complex peaks were present, but were not associated with alanine aminotransferase flares, and a decline in anti-HBs diversity was observed early during treatment.
Lay Summary:  Immunocompromised patients, such as solid organ or hematopoietic stem cell recipients, are at risk of chronic hepatitis E, which can be acquired via blood transfusions. The risk of transfusion-transmitted hepatitis E in these patients may not be sufficiently controlled by (mini-)pool hepatitis E virus RNA screening of blood donors. Single donor screening should be considered to improve the safety of blood products.
Lay Summary:  The hepatitis B virus expresses a regulatory protein called HBV X protein (or HBx). This protein degrades the Smc5/6 complex in human hepatocytes, which is essential for viral replication. We found that this process also plays a key role in the accumulation of DNA damage, which contributes to HBx-mediated tumorigenesis.
Lay Summary:  In this study, we used a national database that includes laboratory data in addition to medical and pharmacy claims data to assess the current real-world management of chronic HBV infection in the US. Among the 12,608 patients with chronic HBV infection included in our study, 52.3% never had a complete laboratory evaluation and only 73% had an adequate evaluation. Among those who were treatment eligible according to major society guidelines, only 60.4% and 54.3% received treatment within 12 months, respectively.
Lay Summary:  Saroglitazar resulted in a rapid and sustained improvement in alkaline phosphatase levels in patients with primary biliary cholangitis. The mean percentage reductions in alkaline phosphatase levels were 49% and 51% in the saroglitazar 4 mg and 2 mg groups compared to 3% in the placebo group
Lay Summary:  A rare side effect of infliximab, a biologic medicine used to treat multiple inflammatory diseases, is liver injury and liver inflammation. Steroid treatment has been used in some patients with liver injury caused by infliximab, but there have been few studies supporting this treatment. In this study of 36 patients with infliximab-induced liver injury, approximately half of patients were treated with steroids and the results suggest that patients receiving steroids recover more quickly.
Lay Summary:  Patients at advanced stages of liver disease have dismal prognosis due to vital organ failures and the lack of treatment options. In this study, we report that the functioning of mitochondria, which are known as the cell powerhouse, is severely impaired in leukocytes of these patients, probably as a consequence of intense inflammation. Mitochondrial dysfunction is therefore a hallmark of advanced liver disease.
    Cirrhosis and Liver Failure
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    Urinary L-FABP is a promising prognostic biomarker of ACLF and mortality in patients with decompensated cirrhosis

    Adrià Juanola, Isabel Graupera, Chiara Elia, Salvatore Piano, Cristina Solé, Marta Carol, Martina Pérez-Guasch, Octavi Bassegoda, Laia Escudé, Ana-Belén Rubio, Marta Cervera, Laura Napoleone, Emma Avitabile, Ann T. Ma, Núria Fabrellas, Elisa Pose, Manuel Morales-Ruiz, Wladimiro Jiménez, Ferran Torres, Gonzalo Crespo, Elsa Solà, Pere Ginès
    Journal of Hepatology, Vol. 76, Issue 1, p107–114
    Open Access
Lay Summary:  Increased levels of liver fatty acid-binding protein (L-FABP), a protein related to lipid metabolism, have been associated with liver-related diseases. The present study analyzed urinary L-FABP levels in 2 independent groups of patients with decompensated cirrhosis and showed that higher urinary L-FABP levels correlated with increased mortality and risk of acute-on-chronic liver failure development. Therefore, urinary L-FABP levels could be useful as a new tool to predict complications in patients with decompensated cirrhosis.
Lay Summary:  Patients with cytomegalovirus (CMV)-associated portal venous system thrombosis have similar thrombosis extension and evolution as patients without CMV disease. However, patients with CMV-associated portal venous system thrombosis more frequently have the prothrombin G20210A gene variant, suggesting that these entities act synergistically to promote thrombosis.
Lay Summary:  The identification of novel treatment targets and approaches for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma is crucial to improve survival outcomes. We identified TAZ as a transcriptional target of c-MYC which plays a critical role in c-MYC-dependent hepatocarcinogenesis. TAZ could potentially be targeted for the treatment of patients with c-MYC-driven hepatocellular carcinoma.
Lay Summary:  Intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma is a primary liver cancer associated with aggressiveness and extremely poor prognosis. It is essential for therapeutic development that we uncover relevant pathogenic pathways. Herein, we showed that a circular RNA (circACTN4) was highly expressed in intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma and was positively associated with tumor growth and metastasis through key developmental signaling pathways. Thus, circACTN4 could be a prognostic biomarker and therapeutic target for intrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma.
Lay Summary:  Targeting regulatory T cells is a promising approach in cancer immunotherapy; however, severe autoimmunity can occur following systemic regulatory T cell loss. This could be avoided by selectively depleting intratumoral regulatory T cells. Herein, targeting intratumoral stem-like CCR4+ regulatory T cells helped to overcome sorafenib resistance and sensitize tumors to immune checkpoint blockade in mouse models of liver cancer. This approach could have wide clinical applicability.
Lay Summary:  Infection with the parasite Entamoeba histolytica activates immunopathological mechanisms in male mice, which lead to liver abscesses that are larger than those in female mice. In the absence of the protein HIF-1α in hepatocytes, abscess formation is reduced; moreover, the sex difference in abscess size is abolished. These results suggest that HIF-1α modulates the immune response involved in the induction of immunopathology, resulting in differential disease susceptibility in males and females.