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Experimental Drug Reverses Fatty Liver Disease

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By    |   Friday, 04 Aug 2017 11:41 AM

Western diets heavy in cheeseburgers, fries, and milkshakes can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, but scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center have developed a new drug that reverses the condition — at least in mice.

The drug called "URMC-099" reversed 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.

Obesity can cause non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and other than losing weight, there are no other treatments. Experts suggest that 64 million Americans have the condition. Individuals with the most severe form of the disease, called non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), have inflammation and liver cell damage, which can lead to scarring, cirrhosis, and liver cancer.

The fat and sugar associated with Western diets trigger inflammation in the liver. The body responds by sending immune cells to neutralize inflammation, but it can overreact and create more inflammation which causes more liver damage. The new drug tamps down the immune response.

Researchers fed mice a high-fat, sugar and cholesterol diet for six weeks. After five-and-a-half weeks, 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 didn't experience any major side effects.

"URMC-099 seems to break this vicious cycle of persistent inflammation by restoring balance between immune cells and liver cells," said Harris A. Gelbard, professor and director of the Center for Neurotherapeutics Discovery at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. "The drug's ability to turn down the volume on the immune response allows the liver to regain its normal functions."

The researchers plan further testing in order to move URMC-099 into early phase human trials.

Other recent studies have found that natural substances can counteract the effects of Western diets. An animal study published in The American Journal of Pathology found that probiotics may prevent and treat fatty liver disease and keep it from advancing to liver cancer.

An article published in Nature Communications found that zinc had the potential to be a simple and effective treatment against acute and chronic liver inflammation, and a 2016 study conducted at the University of Southampton found that two cups of coffee a day reduced the risk of liver cirrhosis by 44 percent.

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Western diets heavy in cheeseburgers, fries, and milkshakes can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, but scientists at the University of Rochester Medical Center have developed a new drug that reverses the condition - at least in mice.The drug called "URMC-099"...
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