New research project analyses different disease stages of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease for therapeutic steps

In a new research project, the Leibniz Research Centre for Working Environment and Human Factors in Dortmund (IfADo) and partner institutions are analysing the different stages of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, from benign steatosis to cancer development. The aim is to identify the mechanisms that initiate the different stages of the disease. Based on this, suitable time windows for therapeutic measures are to be developed. The project is funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation).

Laboratory samples

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) can progress to fatty liver inflammation (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis, NASH), liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), a malignant disease of the liver. Currently, there are no approved drugs for the treatment of NASH because the course of the disease process is not yet fully understood.

Previous IfADo research work has already identified six stages of how NAFLD progresses to HCC. Among other things, biomarkers were identified in the blood to be able to recognise the different stages. The aim of the current project is to find out which mechanisms trigger the transition to the different stages. On the other hand, time windows are to be identified in which drugs can be used to intervene in the course of the disease.

Until a few years ago, the keyword „fatty liver“ was immediately associated with alcohol. Today, however, it is clear that the western lifestyle with lack of exercise and a high-calorie food is also considered to be the cause of fatty liver disease, in which there is too much fat in the liver cells. NAFLD is the most common chronic liver disease in western industrialised countries.

Involved partner institutions:

  • RWTH Aachen University
  • Klinikum rechts der Isar Technische Universität München
  • Dr. Margarete Fischer-Bosch-Institut für Klinische Pharmakologie
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