In the ongoing fight against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), one preparation is being noticed by researchers.
The drug has partially reversed a lab-created NAFLD condition in animals and might just be the ticket to helping humans out of a similar fate, experts say.
If so, it could be part of the key to reduce a condition that’s taking developed nations by storm and affecting their health.
Inflammation and Scarring Reduced
The drug, URMC-099, was developed by researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center. It was tested on animals fed what is loosely called a Western fast food diet, representative of a trend that’s been growing in developed nations, but particularly the U.S., for at least the past 15 years.
Along with this change in diet and a reduction in exercise, U.S. adult overweight obesity has increased to its current status of nearly 75% adults.
Children aren’t far behind, at 1 in 6 overweight or obese currently.
In light of these daunting facts, the University of Rochester scientists developed URMC-099 and tested it on laboratory mice.
According to the study, the following were reduced in response to the administration of URMC-099:
- injury caused by the fast food diet
- liver scarring
The Key: Inflammation
According to the university researchers, liver inflammation in NAFLD is due to an immune reaction.
The new drug appeared to reduce this response.
“(The new drug) seems to break this vicious cycle of persistent inflammation by restoring balance between immune cells and liver cells,” Dr. Harris Gelbard, Ph.D., URMC said in a statement. “The drug’s ability to turn down the volume on the immune response allows the liver to regain its normal functions.”
The study lasted six weeks.
Why Inflammation Happens
The mechanism that kicks off an NAFLD condition is not fully known, but an immunity response appears to be a factor and results in inflammation of the organ, according to researchers.
A diet rich in fatty and sugary foods triggers a signal to the body to send immunity cells out, but particularly to the liver, in an effort to control these macronutrients which are in overabundance in the body.
When that happens, the organ can become inflamed.
URMC doctors said their new drug showed positive signs of short-circuiting this response, which, while designed by the body to help, could actually make matters worse and cause the patient’s NAFLD to get worse instead of better.
Even if the new drug does what researchers say it will, it’s still only one key to the NAFLD puzzle. Continuing to eat badly and underexercise, then taking a drug to short-circuit a natural response, may only be a temporary measure, so lifestyle changes are almost always in order when NAFLD is suspected or diagnosed.
However, in concert with positive lifestyle changes, drugs like URMC-099 could help speed the healing process and reverse damage that’s already occured.
More research will be conducted utilizing the new drug to determine whether it could be of long-term benefit to humans.
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