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How Fat Poisons Livers

How Fat Poisons Livers

The condition known as Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) affects up to a quarter of the population in western countries. Ariel Feldstein, M.D., Mayo Clinic paediatric gastroenterologist and principal investigator says: "NAFLD is a growing worldwide problem related to affluence and the diet and lifestyle associated with it. It's as true in the U.S. as it is in Europe, Japan, and my native country Argentina.”

By studying livers of both obese and lean mice, as well as liver samples from obese and lean human patients, the Mayo Clinic researchers discovered key points about how NAFLD works. The process starts when there's so much dietary fat in the blood that it can no longer be contained in the usual storage places, such as fat cells. When this happens, the fatty acids are "free,” roving around space inside cells known as cytosol. These freely circulating fatty acids inside the liver cells' cytosol start the chain of events that the Mayo Clinic researchers discovered.

Understanding these processes gives researchers a basis for designing treatments to interrupt the chain of events, and thus, shut down injurious cellular processes. This could lead one day to new drugs for NAFLD. Drug-development approaches are important because the only treatment for early-stage NAFLD now is the same as that prescribed for the other symptoms of metabolic syndrome, such as insulin resistance, high blood pressure and high blood fats: eat less and exercise more to lose weight.

"Every week I have several patients in which the mean age is about 12 that come with symptoms of liver disease - and that's very young for this to be happening,” says Dr. Feldstein. "Perhaps 1 in 10 of my patients has signs of liver disease, and that group can be thought of as the first step toward NASH: nonalcoholic steatohepatitis.”; Source: Mayo Clinic


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