Experts at Newcastle University are leading an international research project to tackle non-alcoholic liver disease (NAFLD), which is estimated to affect up to one in three people. The project is looking at new ways to diagnose, risk-stratify and monitor disease severity in those living with NAFLD. NAFLD is strongly linked to conditions such as obesity and type 2 diabetes. It leads to cirrhosis and liver cancer, as well as increasing the risk of heart attacks and stroke. Tackling it is now a major public health challenge in many parts of the world."Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is already the most common underlying cause of liver transplant in the USA," explains Professor Quentin Anstee. "With the obesity epidemic, Europe is very close behind." NAFLD is caused by a build-up of fat in the liver cells, leading to inflammation, scarring of the liver and cirrhosis. This scarring can stop the liver working properly, which is important for detoxifying harmful substances in the body as well as processing nutrients for energy metabolism and making proteins that the body needs.
The €34 million research project, LITMUS (Liver Investigation: Testing Marker Utility in Steatohepatitis), is being co-ordinated by Professor Anstee at Newcastle University, working closely with the lead industry partner, Pfizer Ltd. LITMUS brings together 47 collaborating research partners, including many of the world’s leading international universities and global pharmaceutical companies to develop, validate and qualify better biomarkers for testing NAFLD.
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