Study: Experimental Drug Reverses Obesity-Related Liver Disease

Monday, December 11th, 2017 | 1000 Views

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Centre (URMC) in the US have developed a drug called URMC-099 that protects mice from non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, which is caused by a high-fat diet.

Obesity often leads to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Individuals with the most severe form of the disease, called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, have inflammation and liver cell damage, which can lead to scarring, cirrhosis and liver cancer. Other than weight loss, there are no treatment options.

Eating lots of fatty and sugary foods triggers inflammation in the liver and the body responds by sending immune cells to neutralize the threat. Unfortunately, the immune response can rage out of control, creating even more inflammation and further damaging the liver.

“URMC-099 seems to break this vicious cycle of persistent inflammation by restoring balance between immune cells and liver cells,” said Dr Harris Gelbard, professor and director of the Centre for Neurotherapeutics Discovery at URMC. “The drug’s ability to turn down the volume on the immune response allows the liver to regain its normal functions.”

The study, published in the journal JCI Insights, reported that the drug can reverse liver inflammation, injury and scarring in animals fed a diet high in fat, sugar and cholesterol. The diet was designed to replicate the Western fast food diet and recreate the features of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease found in people.

The mice were fed a high fat, sugar and cholesterol diet for six weeks. After five and a half weeks on the diet, half of the mice received URMC-099 and half received placebo. The mice given the drug had less immune-related inflammation and less liver injury and fibrosis compared to placebo-treated mice and did not experience any major side effects.

The drug was well tolerated and the research team plans further testing in order to move the drug into early phase human trials.