Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Fatty liver disease epidemic: De-fat experiment could lead to solution that would ease rampant problem

Fatty liver disease may not be well known, but it's epidemic. Caused mainly by a poor diet and a lack of exercise, the condition has now surpassed alcohol as the leading cause of liver disease in Western nations, doctors say.

Many radiologists see fatty liver cases almost every day. Patients often come in for an imaging test for some other reason and they incidentally notice that they have fatty liver.

In places where obesity rates are higher than other regions, up to 40 per cent of the population has fatty liver disease. It's a serious condition because it can lead to much more serious health problems such as cirrhosis, fibrosis or cancer.

Research project

The prevalence of fatty liver disease has prompted a team of doctors in Halifax to begin a research project.

One of the main challenges when it comes to fatty liver disease and transplants is there's a high chance the donor liver will also have the condition.

If we transplant livers that are fatty, the outcomes are poor.

Some of institutes have system that pumps fluid through the liver, through the blood vessels in the liver. To that solution, they add agents that act on short-term lipid metabolism. So they actually help the liver get rid of its fat by itself and flush it through the bile ducts or through the blood system.

Even if doctors can remove the fat of a very severely fatty liver to become mildly fatty that would still allow them to use that liver for transplant purposes.

De-fatting experiments

The biggest challenge will be to identify which agents work best at de-fatting.
This will allow the ability to use more organs, more livers for transplantation and help more people.

Better diagnosis is another aspect of the research. MRI has always been able to detect a fatty liver, but the Halifax Infirmary now has a powerful new MRI to not only show when a liver is fatty, but also reveal what kind of fat is in the liver and how much inflammation there is.

Having both a fatty liver and inflammation is a bad combination. Currently, the only way to properly diagnose a fatty liver is to do a biopsy.

Adapted Langerdorf Apparatus
Scientists have developed a machine they believe will help remove the fat from liver.

It has complications such as infection, pain and bleeding. And also, fatty liver disease is so prevalent that it's not practical to have every single person have a biopsy.

Having a non-invasive way to assess these people would be very helpful not only for diagnosis, but for monitoring the effects of treatment over time.

Early and more accurate diagnoses are important because once a patient finds out he or she has fatty liver disease, they can change their eating habits and begin an exercise regime that may help ease the problem.


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