Lay Summaries - Volume 76 Issue 2

Lay Summary:  There is uncertainty on the burden of liver-related complications in patients with type 2 diabetes. We studied the risks of liver cancer and complications of liver disease in over 50,000 patients with type 2 diabetes. We found that alcohol was the main factor associated with complications of liver disease. This finding has major implications on the alcohol advice given to patients with type 2 diabetes.
Lay Summary:  Excessive chronic drinking leads to cirrhosis in some people, but so far there is no way to identify those at high risk of developing this debilitating disease. We developed a genetic risk score that can identify patients at high risk. The risk of cirrhosis is increased >10-fold with just two risk factors – diabetes and a high genetic risk score. Risk assessment using this test could enable the early and personalised management of this disease in high-risk patients.
Lay Summary:  There is increasing evidence that specific environmental contaminants, such as perfluorinated alkyl substances (PFAS), contribute to the progression of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). However, it is poorly understood how these chemicals impact human liver metabolism. Here we show that human exposure to PFAS impacts metabolic processes associated with NAFLD, and that the effect is different in females and males.
Lay Summary:  Risk prediction models for hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in patients infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV) could guide HCC surveillance decisions. In this large cohort of US-based patients receiving treatment for HBV, most published models discriminated between those who did or did not develop HCC, although the RWS-HCC, REAL-B, and AASL-HCC performed the best. If confirmed in future studies, these models could help identify a low-risk subset of patients on antiviral treatment who could be excluded from HCC surveillance.
Lay Summary:  In this large single-center study enrolling patients with hepatitis C virus (HCV)-related cirrhosis cured by direct-acting antivirals, pre-treatment liver disease history strongly influenced long-term outcomes. In patients with HCV-related cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma was the most frequent liver-related complication after viral cure. Due to improved long-term outcomes, patients with cirrhosis after HCV cure are exposed to a significant proportion of non-liver-related events.
Lay Summary:  Risk scores have been developed to predict the risk of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in patients with chronic hepatitis B. We developed and validated a new risk prediction model using machine learning algorithms in 13,508 antiviral-treated patients with chronic hepatitis B. Our new model, based on 10 common baseline characteristics, demonstrated superior performance in risk stratification compared with previous risk scores. This model also identified a group of patients at minimal risk of developing HCC, who could be indicated for less intensive HCC surveillance.
Lay Summary:  We previously identified annexin A11 as a specific autoantigen in immunoglobulin G4-related cholangitis (IRC), a B-cell driven disease affecting the bile ducts. Human cholangiocytes are protected against harmful hydrophobic bile acid influx by a defense mechanism referred to as the ‘biliary bicarbonate umbrella’. We found that annexin A11 is required for the formation of a robust bicarbonate umbrella. Binding of patient-derived annexin A11 autoantibodies inhibits annexin A11 function, possibly contributing to bile duct damage by weakening the biliary bicarbonate umbrella in patients with IRC.
Lay Summary:  In this clinical trial, we examined the underlying mechanism of action of an antibiotic called rifaximin-α which has been shown to be an effective treatment for a complication of chronic liver disease which effects the brain (termed encephalopathy). We show that rifaximin-α suppresses gut bacteria that translocate from the mouth to the intestine and cause the intestinal wall to become leaky by breaking down the protective mucus barrier. This suppression resolves encephalopathy and reduces inflammation in the blood, preventing the development of infection.
Lay Summary:  Microvascular invasion, a major risk factor for tumor recurrence after surgery in hepatocellular carcinoma, is only detectable by microscopic examination of a surgical specimen. In this study, we defined a relevant surrogate signature of microvascular invasion in hepatocellular carcinoma that may be applied in clinical practice with routine tumor biopsy and integrated into the therapeutic strategy.
Lay Summary:  The immunotherapy-based regimen of atezolizumab plus bevacizumab represents the new standard of care in systemic first-line therapy of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Biomarkers to predict treatment outcome are an unmet need in patients undergoing immunotherapy for HCC. We developed and externally validated a score that predicts outcome in patients with HCC undergoing immunotherapy with immune checkpoint blockers.
Lay Summary:  The health emergency caused by the coronavirus pandemic has dramatically changed clinical practice during the pandemic. The first wave of the pandemic impacted liver transplantation differently across the world, with particularly detrimental effects on the countries badly hit by the virus. The resilience of the entire transplant network has enabled continued organ donation and transplantation, ultimately improving the lives of patients with end-stage liver disease.
Lay Summary:  The best possible outcomes after liver transplantation of grafts donated after circulatory death (DCD) were defined using the concept of benchmarking. These were based on 2,219 liver transplantations following controlled DCD donation in 17 centres worldwide. Donor and recipient combinations with higher risk had significantly worse outcomes. However, the use of novel organ perfusion technology helped high-risk patients achieve similar outcomes as the benchmark cohort.
Lay Summary:  In females, the protein TTC39B degrades a tumor suppressor in the liver to promote the synthesis of new fat and the expression of a major genetic risk factor for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. TTC39B is a potential therapeutic target for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, especially in women.
Lay Summary:  Fibrosis in the liver is one of the main histological determinants of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a disease paralleling a worldwide surge in metabolic syndromes. Our study demonstrates that a macrophage-specific deficiency in Yes-associated protein (YAP) attenuates liver fibrosis. Dopamine receptor D2 (DRD2) antagonism selectively blocks YAP in macrophages and thwarts liver fibrosis in both rodent and large animal models, and thus holds potential for the treatment of NASH.
Lay Summary:  New therapeutic strategies for non-alcoholic steatohepatitis are urgently needed. We identified that the protein GSTM2 exerts a protective effect in response to metabolic stress. Therapies that aim to increase the activity of GSTM2 could hold promise for the treatment of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis.