Dr. Amedeo Lonardo E-Mail
Director of Simple Operating Unit, Ospedale Civile di Baggiovara, Azienda Ospedaliero Universitaria di Modena, Modena, Italy
Research Keywords: NAFLD; NASH; cirrhosis; HCC
Dr. Giovanni Targher E-Mail
Section of Endocrinology and Metabolism, Department of Medicine, University of Verona, Verona, Italy
Research Keywords: role of NAFLD in cardiovascular morbidity/mortality; role of NAFLD in microvascular complications of diabetes
Exploration of Medicine (EM) is a novel peer-reviewed, open access, online journal. It publishes articles that provide substantial and novel insights into medicine spanning molecular and cell biology through research of all human diseases. The journal adopts a single-blind peer review. Those authors who publish for EM hold the copyright of their works, make their original works completely available and free to use as long as the authors and the original source are properly cited.
EM has charged two Associate Editors, Dr. Lonardo (Gastroenterology & Hepatology) and Professor Targher (Endocrinology & Metabolism) to edit a special issue dedicated to nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). Why has this topic been chosen? NAFLD defines a spectrum of hepatic (steatosis, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis [NASH], cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma) and extra-hepatic manifestations (nephro-cardio-metabolic diseases and extra-hepatic cancers) that occur in individuals free of any competing causes of hepatic steatosis (e.g., alcohol, virus, drugs and others) but who often have concurrent dysmetabolic features. NAFLD is the most common chronic liver disease worldwide, causes considerable health care expenses, requests a heavy toll in terms of morbidity and premature mortality and has, therefore, gained considerable scientific interest. Areas of ongoing research include epidemiological features and risk factors, (molecular) pathogenesis, (non-invasive) diagnosis, government of the patients fluxes from primary to specialist care as well as management of this burdensome liver disease with lifestyle modifications and innovative drugs that are being evaluated.
In order to provide a virtual forum for exchange of ideas and data in Academic as well as in Translational and Clinical research, Dr. Lindsay Farrer, the Editor-in-Chief of EM, has invited Doctors Lonardo and Targher to edit this single-topic issue.
Keywords: NAFLD; NASH; HCC; cirrhosis
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has become the most common liver alteration worldwide. It encompasses a spectrum of disorders that range from simple steatosis to a progressive form, defined non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), that can lead to advanced fibrosis and eventually cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. On liver histology, NASH is characterized by the concomitant presence of significant fat accumulation and inflammatory reaction with hepatocellular injury. Until now, liver biopsy is still required to differentiate simple steatosis from NASH and evaluate the degree of liver fibrosis. Unfortunately, this technique has well-known limitations, including invasiveness and expensiveness. Moreover, it may be biased by sampling error and intra- or inter-observed variability. Furthermore, due to the increasing prevalence of NAFLD worldwide, to program a systematic screening with liver biopsy is not imaginable. In recent years, different techniques were developed and validated with the aim of non-invasively identifying NASH and assess liver fibrosis degrees. The non-invasive tests range from simple blood-tests analyses to composite scores and complex imaging techniques. Nevertheless, even if they could represent cost-effective strategies for diagnosing NASH, advanced fibrosis and cirrhosis, their accuracy and consequent usefulness are to be discussed. With this aim, in this review the authors summarize the current state of non-invasive assessment of NAFLD. In particular, in addition to the well-established tests, the authors describe the future perspectives in this field, reporting the latest tests based on OMICS, gut-miocrobioma and micro-RNAs. Finally, the authors provide an accurate assessment of how these non-invasive tools perform in clinical practice depending on the clinical context, with the aim of giving the clinicians a useful tool to try to resolve the diagnostic conundrum of NAFLD.
The pathophysiological mechanisms underlying the close relationship between nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) are multiple, complex and only partially known. The purpose of this paper was to review the current knowledge of these mechanisms in a unified manner. Subjects with NAFLD and T2DM have established insulin resistance (IR), which exacerbates the two comorbidities. IR worsens NAFLD by increasing the accumulation of free fatty acids (FFAs) in the liver. This occurs due to an increase in the influx of FFAs from peripheral adipose tissue by the activation of hormone-sensitive lipase. In addition, there is de novo increased lipogenesis, a transcription factor, the sterols regulatory element-binding transcription factor 1c (SREBP-1c), which activates the expression of several genes strongly promotes lipogenesis by the liver and facilitate storage of triglycerides. Lipids accumulation in the liver induces a chronic stress in the endoplasmic reticulum of the hepatocytes. Genome-wide association studies have identified genetic variants associated with NAFLD severity, but unrelated to IR. In particular, the alteration of patatin-like phospholipase domain-containing protein 3 contributes to the susceptibility to NAFLD. Furthermore, the lipotoxicity of ceramides and diacylglycerol, well known in T2DM, triggers a chronic inflammatory process favoring the progression from hepatic steatosis to steatohepatitis. Reactive oxygen species produced by mitochondrial dysfunction trigger both liver inflammation and beta-cells damage, promoting the progression of both NAFLD and T2DM. The close association between NAFLD and T2DM is bidirectional, as T2DM may trigger both NAFLD onset and its progression, but NAFLD itself may contribute to the development of IR and T2DM. Future studies on the mechanisms will have to deepen the knowledge of the interaction between the two pathologies and should allow the identification of new therapeutic targets for the treatment of NAFLD, currently substantially absent.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a serious condition that can lead to fibrosis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. NAFLD is associated with metabolic syndrome (MetS) and all of its components. According to data, around 25–30% of population has NAFLD. Giving the growing incidence of MetS, obesity and diabetes mellitus type 2, NAFLD related terminal-stage liver disease is becoming prevailing indication for liver transplantation. In order to prevent terminal stage of this disease, it is crucial to determine those that are in risk group, to modify their risk factors and monitor their potential progression. In the absence of other causes of chronic liver disease, the prime diagnosis of NAFLD in daily clinical practice includes anamnesis, laboratory results (increased levels of aminotransferases and gammaglutamil transferases) and imaging methods. The biggest challenge with NAFLD patients is to differentiate simple steatosis from nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, and detection of fibrosis, that is the main driver in NAFLD progression. The gold standard for NAFLD diagnosis still remains the liver biopsy (LB). However, in recent years many noninvasive methods were invented, such as transient elastography (TE). TE (FibroScan®, Echosens, Paris, France) is used for diagnosis of pathological differences of liver stiffness measurement (LSM) and controlled attenuation parameter (CAP). Investigations in the last years have confirmed that elastographic parameters of steatsis (CAP) and fibrosis (LSM) are reliable biomarkers to non-invasively assess liver steatosis and fibrosis respectively in NAFLD patients. A quick, straightforward and non-invasive method for NAFLD screening in patients with MetS components is TE-CAP. Once diagnosed, the next step is to determine the presence of fibrosis by LSM which should point out high risk patients. Those patients should be referred to hepatologists. LB may be avoided in a substantial number of patients if TE with CAP is used for screening.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has become the most prevalent liver chronic disease worldwide. The pathogenesis of NAFLD is complex and involves many metabolic enzymes and multiple pathways. Posttranslational modifications of proteins (PMPs) added another layer of complexity to the pathogenesis of NAFLD. PMPs change protein properties and regulate many biological functions, including cellular localization, stability, intracellular signaling, and protein function. Lysine acetylation is a common reversible PMP that consists of the transfer of an acetyl group from acetyl-coenzyme A (CoA) to a lysine residue on targeted proteins. The deacetylation reaction is catalyzed by deacetylases called sirtuins. This review summarizes the role of acetylation in NAFLD with a focus on sirtuins 1 and 3.
The prevalence of nonalcoholic or more recently re-defined metabolic associated fatty liver disease (MAFLD) is rapidly growing worldwide. It is characterized by hepatic fat accumulation exceeding 5% of liver weight not attributable to alcohol consumption. MAFLD refers to an umbrella of conditions ranging from simple steatosis to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis which may finally progress to cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. MAFLD is closely related to components of the metabolic syndrome and to environmental factors. In addition to the latter, genetic predisposition plays a key role in MAFLD pathogenesis and strictly contributes to its progressive forms. The candidate genes which have been related to MAFLD hereditability are mainly involved in lipids remodeling, lipid droplets assembly, lipoprotein packaging and secretion, de novo lipogenesis, and mitochondrial redox status. In the recent years, it has emerged the opportunity to translate the genetics into clinics by aggregating the genetic variants mostly associated with MAFLD in polygenic risk scores. These scores might be used in combination with metabolic factors to identify those patients at higher risk to develop more severe liver disease and to schedule an individual therapeutic approach.
Pooled prevalence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) globally is about 25%. Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) with advanced fibrosis has been linked with substantial morbidity and mortality, without having to-date any licensed treatment. C-C chemokine receptor (CCR) antagonists have been investigated as candidates for the treatment of NASH. Inhibition of CCR2 is expected to mitigate hepatic inflammation, through reducing the activation of Kupffer cells, as well as the infiltration of monocytes and macrophages into the liver. Inhibition of CCR5 is expected to mitigate hepatic fibrogenesis, through impairing the activation of hepatic stellate cells, as well as to mitigate hepatic inflammation, through impairing the activation of Kupffer cells and macrophages. Cenicriviroc (CVC) is the first in class, dual inhibitor of CCR2 and CCR5. After exhibiting favorable results in animal models, CVC was shown to be beneficial in NASH patients with more severe fibrosis at a phase 2b trial (CENTAUR) and is currently at a phase 3 clinical trial (AURORA). Apart from CVC, other CCR5 mono-antagonists, such as maraviroc, are under evaluation in clinical trials with human immunodeficiency virus patients with NAFLD. The aim of this review was to summarize existing evidence on CVC and other CCR antagonists in NASH patients, primarily focusing on their clinical efficacy and safety.
Rational government of patient fluxes from primary care to hepatology clinic is a priority of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) research. Estimating pre-test probability of disease, risk of fibrosis progression, and exclusion of competing causes of liver disease must be addressed. Here we propose a novel taxonomic classification of NAFLD based on hepatic, pathogenic and systemic features of disease in the individual patient. The variable course of disease in any given patient remains a clinical enigma. Therefore, future studies will have to better characterize the role of genetic polymorphisms, family and personal history, diet, alcohol, physical activity and drugs as modifiers of the course of disease and clues to the early diagnosis of hepatocellular carcinoma. A better understanding of these, together with a taxonomic diagnosis, may prompt a more accurate personalization of care. For example, understanding the putative role of psycho-depression in NAFLD promises to revolutionize disease management in a proportion of cases. Similarly, sex differences in outcome and response to treatment are insufficiently characterized. More studies are awaited regarding those forms of NAFLD which occur secondary to endocrine derangements. The intersections between NAFLD and the lung must better be defined. These include the bi-directional associations of NAFLD and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and sleep apnoea syndrome, as well as the totally unexplored chapter of NAFLD and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Finally, the therapeutic roles of intermittent fasting and anticoagulation must be assessed. In conclusion, over the last 20 years, NAFLD has taught us a lot regarding the pathogenic importance of insulin resistance, the limitations of correcting this in the treatment of NAFLD, the root causes of diabetes and the metabolic syndrome, sex differences in disease and the role of nuclear receptors. However, the overwhelming COVID-19 pandemic is now expected to reset the priorities of public health.
Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a substantial and growing problem worldwide and has become the second most common indication for liver transplantation as it may progress to cirrhosis and develop complications from portal hypertension primarily caused by advanced fibrosis and erratic tissue remodeling. However, elevated portal venous pressure has also been detected in experimental models of fatty liver and in human NAFLD when fibrosis is far less advanced and cirrhosis is absent. Early increases in intrahepatic vascular resistance may contribute to the progression of liver disease. Specific pathophenotypes linked to the development of portal hypertension in NAFLD include hepatocellular lipid accumulation and ballooning injury, capillarization of liver sinusoidal endothelial cells, enhanced contractility of hepatic stellate cells, activation of Kupffer cells and pro-inflammatory pathways, adhesion and entrapment of recruited leukocytes, microthrombosis, angiogenesis and perisinusoidal fibrosis. These pathological events are amplified in NAFLD by concomitant visceral obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes and dysbiosis, promoting aberrant interactions with adipose tissue, skeletal muscle and gut microbiota. Measurement of the hepatic venous pressure gradient by retrograde insertion of a balloon-tipped central vein catheter is the current reference method for predicting outcomes of cirrhosis associated with clinically significant portal hypertension and guiding interventions. This invasive technique is rarely considered in the absence of cirrhosis where currently available clinical, imaging and laboratory correlates of portal hypertension may not reflect early changes in liver hemodynamics. Availability of less invasive but sufficiently sensitive methods for the assessment of portal venous pressure in NAFLD remains therefore an unmet need. Recent efforts to develop new biomarkers and endoscopy-based approaches such as endoscopic ultrasound-guided measurement of portal pressure gradient may help achieve this goal. In addition, cellular and molecular targets are being identified to guide emerging therapies in the prevention and management of portal hypertension.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) remains a major cause of chronic liver disease worldwide. Despite extensive studies, the heterogeneity of the risk factors as well as different disease mechanisms complicate the goals toward effective diagnosis and management. Recently, it has been shown that sex differences play a role in the prevalence and progression of NAFLD. In vitro, in vivo, and clinical studies revealed that the lower prevalence of NAFLD in premenopausal as compared to postmenopausal women and men is mainly due to the protective effects of estrogen and body fat distribution. It has been also described that males and females present differential pathogenic features in terms of biochemical profiles and histological characteristics. However, the exact molecular mechanisms for the gender differences that exist in the pathogenesis of NAFLD are still elusive. Lipogenesis, oxidative stress, and inflammation play a key role in the progression of NAFLD. For NAFLD, only a few studies characterized these mechanisms at the molecular level. Therefore, we aim to review the reported differential molecular mechanisms that trigger such different pathogenesis in both sexes. Differences in lipid metabolism, glucose homeostasis, oxidative stress, inflammation, and fibrosis were discussed based on the evidence reported in recent publications. In conclusion, with this review, we hope to provide a new perspective for the development of future practice guidelines as well as a new avenue for the management of the disease.