Lay Summaries - Volume 76 Issue 4

Lay Summary:  Around a third of the countries scored a zero on the NAFLD policy preparedness index, with no country scoring over 50/100. Although NAFLD is a pressing public health problem, a comprehensive public health response is lacking in all 102 countries. Policies and strategies to address NAFLD at the national and global levels are urgently needed.
Lay Summary:  Identifying patients with non-alcoholic steatohepatitis and significant fibrosis – who need treatment and are at risk of clinical liver-related outcomes – is a clinical priority. We developed a more accurate score using MRI-based technologies and a laboratory blood test (aspartate aminotransferase) that outperforms previous non-invasive scores for the identification of patients at higher risk of liver disease progression.
    NAFLD and Alcohol-Related Liver Diseases
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    Münevver Demir, Sonja Lang, Phillipp Hartmann, Yi Duan, Anna Martin, Yukiko Miyamoto, Marina Bondareva, Xinlian Zhang, Yanhan Wang, Philipp Kasper, Corinna Bang, Christoph Roderburg, Frank Tacke, Hans-Michael Steffen, Tobias Goeser, Andrey Kruglov, Lars Eckmann, Peter Stärkel, Derrick E. Fouts, Bernd Schnabl
    Journal of Hepatology, Vol. 76, Issue 4, p788–799
Lay Summary:  Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is one of the most common chronic liver diseases and is associated with changes in the fecal bacterial microbiome. We show that patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and more severe disease stages have a specific composition of fecal fungi and an increased systemic immune response to Candida albicans. In a fecal microbiome-humanized mouse model of Western diet-induced steatohepatitis, we show that treatment with antifungals reduces liver damage.
Lay Summary:  Long-chain omega-3 fatty acids are involved in multiple pathways regulating hepatic inflammation and fibrosis, but their susceptibility to peroxidation and use as an energy source may limit their clinical efficacy. Herein, we show that a structurally modified omega-3 fatty acid, icosabutate, overcame these challenges and had markedly improved antifibrotic efficacy in a mouse model of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis. A hepatoprotective effect of icosabutate was also observed in patients with elevated circulating lipids, in whom it led to rapid reductions in markers of liver injury.
    Viral Hepatitis
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    Georg Semmler, Elias Laurin Meyer, Karin Kozbial, Philipp Schwabl, Stefanie Hametner-Schreil, Alberto Zanetto, David Bauer, David Chromy, Benedikt Simbrunner, Bernhard Scheiner, Albert F. Stättermayer, Matthias Pinter, Rainer Schöfl, Francesco Paolo Russo, Helena Greenfield, Michael Schwarz, Caroline Schwarz, Michael Gschwantler, Sonia Alonso López, Maria Luisa Manzano, Adriana Ahumada, Rafael Bañares, Mònica Pons, Sergio Rodríguez-Tajes, Joan Genescà, Sabela Lens, Michael Trauner, Peter Ferenci, Thomas Reiberger, Mattias Mandorfer
    Journal of Hepatology, Vol. 76, Issue 4, p812–821
    Open Access
Lay Summary:  Simple algorithms based on age, alcohol consumption, results of blood tests (albumin and α-fetoprotein), as well as liver stiffness measurement after the end of hepatitis C treatment identify a large proportion (approximately two-thirds) of patients with advanced but still asymptomatic liver disease who are at very low risk (<1%/year) of liver cancer development, and thus, might not need to undergo 6-monthly liver ultrasound.
Lay Summary:  This study sheds new light on the body’s arsenal for controlling hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection and identifies interleukin-26 (IL-26) as an antiviral molecule capable of blocking HCV replication. IL-26, which has unique biochemical and structural characteristics, penetrates infected hepatocytes and interacts directly with viral RNA, thereby blocking viral replication. IL-26 is, therefore, a new player in antiviral defenses, operating independently of the immune system. It is of considerable potential interest for treating HCV infection and other chronic disorders caused by RNA viruses for which few treatments are currently available, and for combating emerging RNA viruses.
Lay Summary:  Medications used to treat epilepsy may sometimes cause severe liver injury. However, several new medications have been approved over the last 2 decades and they may not be as toxic to the liver as older antiepileptic medications (AEDs). This study shows that overall liver injury due to AEDs is decreasing, likely due to decreasing use of older AEDs. Liver injury due to AEDs appears to be more common in African Americans and is commonly associated with allergic skin reactions.
Lay Summary:  Consensus among international experts on response criteria and endpoints in autoimmune hepatitis is lacking. A consensus on endpoints is urgently required to set a global standard for the reporting of study results and to enable the comparison of results between clinical trials. Therefore, the International Autoimmune Hepatitis Group (IAIHG) herein presents a statement on 5 agreed response criteria and endpoints: complete biochemical response, insufficient response, non-response, remission, and intolerance to treatment, which can be used to guide future reporting.
Lay Summary:  By genetic ablation of MCRS1 in mouse hepatocytes, we generate the first genetic mouse model of cirrhosis that recapitulates human features. Herein, we demonstrate that the activation of the bile acid/FXR axis in liver fibroblasts is key in cirrhosis development.
Lay Summary:  The primary analysis of IMbrave150 showed that atezolizumab plus bevacizumab had significantly greater benefits than sorafenib in patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma, but survival data were not yet mature. At this updated analysis done 12 months later, median overall survival was 5.8 months longer with atezolizumab plus bevacizumab than sorafenib, and the severity profile of treatment-related side effects remained similar. These updated results confirm atezolizumab plus bevacizumab as the first-line standard of care for advanced hepatocellular carcinoma.
Lay Summary:  Patients with HCV-related cirrhosis, without non-characterized liver nodules at sustained virologic response, remain at risk of hepatocellular carcinoma despite viral cure. However, the cancer risk after successful direct-acting antiviral treatment is marginal in patients with F3 fibrosis without non-characterized liver nodules. If confirmed in larger prospective studies, current screening recommendations may need to be revisited in this group of patients.
Lay Summary:  The World Health Organization estimates that more than 1 million patients will die from liver cancer, mostly hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), in 2030. Understanding the underlying mechanism by which HCC acquires aggressive attributes is crucial to improving the diagnosis and treatment of patients. Herein, we demonstrated that nanometer-sized extracellular vesicles released by tumors promote cancer stemness and tumorigenesis. Within these oncogenic vesicles, we identified a key component that functions as a potent modulator of cancer aggressiveness. By inhibiting this functional component of EVs using a neutralizing antibody, tumor growth was profoundly attenuated in mice. This hints at a potentially effective therapeutic alternative for patients with cancer.
Lay Summary:  This report describes how crosstalk between Ikaros and SIRT1, two major transcriptional regulators, influence acute hepatic inflammation in murine models of liver ischemia-reperfusion injury and liver transplant recipients. We show that the myeloid Ikaros–SIRT1 axis regulates inflammasome-pyroptotic cell death and hepatocellular damage in stressed livers. Thus, the Ikaros-SIRT1 axis may serve as a novel checkpoint regulator that is required for homeostasis in response to acute liver injury in mice and humans.
Lay Summary:  Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is emerging as the leading cause of a type of liver cancer called hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), but molecular events in pre-tumor NASH hepatocytes leading to HCC remain largely unknown. Our study shows that a protein called TAZ in pre-tumor NASH-hepatocytes promotes damage to the DNA of hepatocytes and thereby contributes to eventual HCC. This study reveals a very early event in HCC that is induced in pre-tumor NASH, and the findings suggest that NASH therapies targeting TAZ might also prevent NASH-HCC.
Lay Summary:  We identified a three-part complex containing an RNA molecule, a transcription factor, and an epigenetic enzyme. The complex is active in injured bile duct cells and contributes to activation of genes involved in proliferation and fibrosis.