Liver condition identified in patients using urine samples: new research

November 16, 2020

Fifty fragments of proteins, termed peptides, have been identified in the urine of liver fibrosis patients in a new study that could pave the way for a potential diagnostic urine test for the condition if further validated.

The research was led by scientists from the University of Warwick, University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire (UHCW), Mosaiques Diagnostics and Hannover Medical School, who have published their analysis in the journal EBioMedicine.

Liver fibrosis can be a 'silent killer' as sufferers usually do not experience any symptoms until very late stage, when they start to lose the liver function. Patients then typically experience jaundice, ascites (build-up of fluid in the abdomen), variceal gastrointestinal bleeding, and in some cases can result in cancerous formation in the liver.

Previous research on biopsies from fibrotic livers has shown evidence of changes of proteins in liver tissue cells. As part of his PhD at the University of Warwick, Dr Ayman Bannaga, a clinical research fellow at UHCW, investigated whether these protein changes could also be present in a patient's urine, and whether they could act as a biomarker of the condition.

The research team used a total of 393 urine samples divided into discovery and test sets, representing individuals with various liver diseases and those with no disease present. These were investigated using an advanced technology known as capillary electrophoresis mass spectrometry, that separated out protein components in the urine at a molecular level. Following a two-step validation analysis, the researchers found fifty peptides associated with liver fibrosis in patients, mainly fragments of a protein called collagen.

When they tested a new set of patients for these fifty peptides, they correctly identified liver fibrosis patients in 84.2% of cases (sensitivity), and correctly identified those without it in 82.4% of cases (specificity).

While the results require further validation by other research teams, the researchers hope that their findings could form the basis of a simple and cost effective urine test that could spot those who have liver fibrosis before it progresses, although it may be many years before this is seen in clinical practice.

Dr Ayman Bannaga, a PhD student at Warwick Medical School, said: "A urine test is an attractive tool because it is easy to collect from patients, and so this approach can be easily applied in hospitals and GP practices. The ideal potential vision for this test would be to check the condition in people who do not have symptoms to tackle it early, through education, monitoring and medications if needed.

"There are a number of causes of liver fibrosis including viruses such as hepatitis B and C, excessive alcohol consumption, a build-up of fat in the liver, and some auto-immune diseases."

When the liver becomes fibrotic, proteins called collagens shrink the liver, causing the liver to become smaller and stiffer and affecting its function. Fragments of these proteins, which scientists term peptides, find their way into the blood, where they will be filtrated into the kidneys and leave the body via the urine. Currently detecting these protein changes would have to be done using a biopsy, but a urine test would be much easier and less invasive for patients.

Dr Bannaga adds: "Liver fibrosis affects people who are productive, those who drink lots of alcohol, people with sedentary lifestyles. A recent UK study done by a Bristol group showed that 1 in 40 people around the age of 24 years have fibrosis."

Professor Ramesh Arasaradnam OBE, Consultant Gastroenterologist and Dr Bannaga's PhD supervisor at Warwick Medical School, said: "Analysing urine for the purposes of diagnostics is a promising research area, and this new study builds on existing work in my research group looking at urine peptides in colon cancer. While we are unlikely to see this in clinical practice for some time, it provides an avenue for further investigation that could help in the prevention of this terrible condition."
-end-
Notes to editors:

For interviews or a copy of the paper contact:

Peter Thorley
Media Relations Manager (Warwick Medical School and Department of Physics) | Press & Media Relations | University of Warwick
Email: peter.thorley@warwick.ac.uk
Mob: +44 (0) 7824 540863

University of Warwick

Related Peptides Articles from Brightsurf:

Peptides+antibiotic combination may result in a more effective treatment for leishmaniasis
A combination of peptides and antibiotics could be key to eliminating the parasite causing leishmaniasis and avoiding the toxicity to people and animals caused by current drugs.

Designer peptides show potential for blocking viruses, encourage future study
Chemically engineered peptides, designed and developed by a team of researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, could prove valuable in the battle against some of the most persistent human health challenges.

Tracking down cryptic peptides
Using a newly developed method, researchers from the University of W├╝rzburg, in cooperation with the University Hospital of W├╝rzburg, were able to identify thousands of special peptides on the surface of cells for the first time.

Synthesis of prebiotic peptides gives clues to the origin of life on Earth
Coordination Compounds Lab of Kazan Federal University started researching prebiotic peptide synthesis in 2013 with the use of the ASIA-330 flow chemistry system.

Peptides that can be taken as a pill
Peptides represent a billion-dollar market in the pharmaceutical industry, but they can generally only be taken as injections to avoid degradation by stomach enzymes.

Harnessing psyllid peptides to fight citrus greening disease
BTI, USDA and UW scientists have identified peptides in the Asian citrus psyllid, an insect that spreads the bacterium that causes citrus greening disease (huanglongbing, HLB).

New technique has potential to protect oranges from citrus greening
Citrus greening, also called Huanglongbing (HLB), is devastating the citrus industry.

Researchers show what drives a novel, ordered assembly of alternating peptides
A team of researchers has verified that it is possible to engineer two-layered nanofibers consisting of an ordered row of alternating peptides, and has also determined what makes these peptides automatically assemble into this pattern.

Origin of life insight: peptides can form without amino acids
Peptides, one of the fundamental building blocks of life, can be formed from the primitive precursors of amino acids under conditions similar to those expected on the primordial Earth, finds a new UCL study published in Nature.

Ragon Institute study identifies viral peptides critical to natural HIV control
Investigators at the Ragon Institute of MGH, MIT and Harvard have used a novel approach to identify specific amino acids in the protein structure of HIV that appear critical to the ability of the virus to function and replicate.

Read More: Peptides News and Peptides 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.