Fatty liver disease research set to benefit from stem cell advance

May 23, 2018

Scientists have developed a lab-based system for studying the most common type of liver disease, paving the way for research into new therapies.

The team has devised a way to probe Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease, which affects up to one in three people, using cells in a dish.

Researchers will be able to use the new tool to investigate the biological mechanisms underlying the disease, in order to develop and test new treatments.

Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease - or NAFLD - is caused by the accumulation of fat in the liver. The early stages of the disease are usually benign but in some people it can develop to cause serious damage, including cirrhosis and liver failure.

The condition, linked to obesity, is the most common cause of liver disease in the developed world but little is known about how it progresses.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh have devised a method to generate liver-like cells in the lab using stem cells.

The lab-grown liver cells, called hepatocyte like cells or HLCs, look and behave in a similar way to liver cells taken from tissue biopsies.

Exposing HLCs in a dish to an excess of nutrients caused them to show signs of NAFLD, the researchers found.

Experts say the advance will enable them to look for markers that might help them identify who is likely to develop the disease. It also provides a tool to screen for potential new therapies.

The study is published in a special themed issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, which summarises the latest research in engineering human tissues for laboratory studies.

Dr Mandy Drake, a Clinical Researcher and Honorary Consultant Paediatrician at the University of Edinburgh, said: "NAFLD affects up to 30 per cent of the population and is becoming more common. We are currently not able to identify which patients will develop significant liver disease. Studying the process using cells in a dish will help us to identify those at risk and to develop effective treatments."

Professor David Hay, of the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh, said: "Our ability to generate human hepatocytes from stem cells, using semi-automated procedures, allows us to study the mechanisms of human liver disease in a dish and at scale."
-end-
The research was funded by Wellcome, the Medical Research Council and the UK Regenerative Medicine Platform.

University of Edinburgh

Related Liver Disease Articles from Brightsurf:

Fatty liver disease despite a normal weight
Researchers from the University of Tsukuba found significant differences in the clinical presentation of non-obese patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) based on their sex and body mass index.

Sobering reminder about liver disease
Alcohol's popularity and its central place in socialising in Australia obscures the dangers of excessive drinking and possible liver disease, Flinders University experts warn.

Giant leap in diagnosing liver disease
A collaborative team of Salk Institute and UC San Diego scientists have created a novel microbiome-based diagnostic tool that, with the accuracy of the best physicians, quickly and inexpensively identifies liver fibrosis and cirrhosis over 90 percent of the time in human patients.

Link between liver and heart disease could lead to new therapeutics
A newly published study of flies found that protecting liver function also preserves heart health.

Fatty liver disease is underdiagnosed in the US
According to an analysis published in Alimentary Pharmacology & Therapeutics, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is grossly underdiagnosed in the United States.

Possible new treatment strategy for fatty liver disease
Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have identified a molecular pathway that when silenced could restore the normal function of immune cells in people with fatty liver disease.

Longevity protein SIRT6 also protects against fatty liver and fatty liver disease
SIRT6 regulates fat metabolism by activating another protein called peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (PPAR-alpha).

Fresh insights could lead to new treatments for liver disease
The fight against liver disease could be helped by the discovery of cells that cause liver scarring.

Better methods needed for predicting risk of liver disease
While blood samples can reliably identify people with a low risk of developing severe liver disease, better methods are needed in primary care for identifying people in most need of care.

Lab-on-a-chip may help identify new treatments for liver disease
Investigators have developed a 'lab on a chip' technology that can simulate different levels of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease progression.

Read More: Liver Disease News and Liver Disease Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.