Lay Summaries - Volume 77 Issue 6
Lay Summary: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) affects over 25% of the general population worldwide and is one of the main causes of chronic liver disease. Because so many individuals have NAFLD, it is not practical to perform liver biopsies to identify those with more severe disease who may require pharmacological interventions. Therefore, accurate non-invasive tests are crucial. Herein, we compared three such tests and found that a test called MEFIB was the best at detecting patients who might require treatment.
Lay Summary: The incidence of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and its progressive form non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is increasing, posing a significant global health challenge. Herein, we have uncovered the importance of the MRG15-TUFM pathway in NASH development. This pathway is active in the mitochondria (energy powerhouse of the cell) and could be targeted for the treatment of NASH.
Lay Summary: Adipose tissue (commonly called body fat) can be found under the skin (subcutaneous) or around internal organs (visceral). Dysfunction of adipose tissue can cause insulin resistance and lead to excess delivery of fat to other organs such as the liver. Herein, we show that dysfunction specifically in visceral adipose tissue was associated with fatty liver disease.
Lay Summary: Patients with chronic hepatitis B virus infection are at an increased risk of developing liver cancer (specifically hepatocellular carcinoma [HCC]). While there are effective antiviral treatments that can suppress the virus in chronically infected patients, the risk of HCC remains. Herein, we show that adding a traditional Chinese medicine called Biejia-Ruangan compound to an antiviral reduced the risk of HCC in patients with chronic hepatitis B.
Lay Summary: Hepatitis delta virus (HDV) is associated with the most severe form of viral hepatitis. A new treatment for HDV called bulevirtide has recently received conditional approval for patients with chronic HDV infection. However, its safety and effectiveness in patients with more advanced liver disease is not known. Herein, we show that it is safe and effective in patients with HDV-related cirrhosis and clinically significant portal hypertension.
Lay Summary: Primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) is an inflammatory liver disease of the bile ducts for which there is no effective treatment. Herein, we show that the inflammatory immune response to bile duct injury is organised by a specific subtype of immune cell called conventional type 2 dendritic cells. Our findings suggest that this cell subtype and the inflammatory molecules it produces are potential therapeutic targets for PSC.
Lay Summary: Primary biliary cholangitis (PBC) is a chronic autoimmune disease, wherein the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the bile ducts. PBC progresses gradually, so surrogate markers (markers that predict clinically relevant outcomes like the need for a transplant or death long before the event occurs) are often needed to expedite the drug development and approval process. Herein, we show that liver stiffness measurement is a strong predictor of clinical outcomes and could be a useful surrogate endpoint in PBC trials.
Lay Summary: We conducted a prospective cohort study evaluating the association of blood ammonia levels with the risk of adverse outcomes in 754 patients with stable cirrhosis across 3 independent liver units. We found that ammonia is a key determinant that helps to predict which patients will be hospitalised, develop liver-related complications and die; this was confirmed in an independent cohort of patients.
Lay Summary: Decompensation of cirrhosis marks the point at which the liver is no longer able to function normally (and symptoms become apparent). Recently the idea of recompensation was proposed for individuals who may experience an improvement in liver function if the underlying cause of their liver disease is addressed (e.g. antivirals for viral cirrhosis). Herein, we show that over 50% of patients with hepatitis B-related decompensated cirrhosis treated with antivirals could recompensate and we propose laboratory criteria which could be used to define recompensation.
Lay Summary: Measurement of liver stiffness by a specific ultrasound device and platelet count (a simple blood test) are broadly used for the non-invasive diagnosis of increased blood pressure in the veins leading to the liver, which drives the development of complications in patients with advanced liver disease. The results of our pooled analysis refute previous concerns that these tests are less accurate after the cure of hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection. We have developed diagnostic criteria that facilitate personalized management after HCV cure and allow for a de-escalation of care in a high proportion of patients, thereby decreasing disease burden.
Lay Summary: There are different types of primary liver cancers (i.e. cancers that originate in the liver). Accurately identifying a specific subtype of primary liver cancer (and determining its associated prognosis) is important as it can have a major impact on treatment allocation. Herein, we show that a protein called Nestin could be used to refine risk stratification and improve treatment allocation for patients with combined hepatocellular carcinoma, a rare but highly aggressive subtype of primary liver cancer.
Lay Summary: The burden of liver cancer varies across the world. Liver cancer was among the top three causes of cancer death in 46 countries and was among the top five causes of cancer death in 90 countries worldwide. We predict the number of cases and deaths will rise over the next 20 years as the world population grows. Primary liver cancer due to some causes is preventable if control efforts are prioritised and the predicted rise in cases may increase the need for resources to manage care of patients with liver cancer.
Lay Summary: This multicenter international comparative analysis of living donor liver transplantation in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada demonstrates that despite low use of the procedure, the long-term outcomes are excellent. In addition, the mortality risk is not statistically significantly different between the evaluated countries. However, the incidence and risk of retransplantation differs between the countries, being the highest in the United Kingdom and lowest in the United States.
Lay Summary: In this study, we show that the surgical removal of a diseased part of the liver triggers a specific type of programmed cell death in the residual liver tissue. This results in the release of vesicles from dying cells into the blood, where they are cleared by circulating immune cells. These respond by secreting hepatocyte growth factors that could potentially support the regeneration of the liver remnant.
Lay Summary: Combined hepatocellular carcinoma–cholangiocarcinoma is the third most prevalent type of primary liver cancer (i.e. a cancer that originates in the liver). Herein, we show that this type of cancer originates in stem cells in the liver and that it depends on inflammatory signaling. Specifically, we identify a cytokine called IL-6 that appears to be important in the development of these tumors. Our results could be used for the development of novel treatments for these aggressive tumors.