Chronic liver disease associated with obesity and type-2 diabetes is known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis or simply "NASH" and is a rapidly growing health problem world-wide. According to conservative estimates NASH currently affects 5% of the European and US populations.
NASH is characterized by fat accumulation, cell death, inflammation, and scar tissue formation in the liver and is commonly. NASH may progress without major symptoms while leading to a gradual decline in liver function. Advanced NASH is a major cause of liver cirrhosis and deadly liver cancer.
Because of its enormous importance to human health, NASH development and progression has been studied for decades. While equally important from a treatment perspective, less is known about the regression of NASH. For many years advanced NASH was considered irreversible, but recent findings in clinical trials demonstrated that NASH and the resulting scarring of the liver can be reversed upon removal of the underlying liver fat accumulation and inflammation. The cellular mechanisms, however, are still unclear and the risk of relapse is unknown.
The Ravnskjaer group and Novo Nordisk A/S has just initiated a collaborative project to understand the regression of NASH at the molecular level and explore the cellular "memory" retained in the liver after NASH regression. The project will apply state-of-the-art DNA sequencing technologies in combination with advanced image analysis of liver samples at different disease stages.
This project was supported by more than DKK 1.7 Mio. from Novo Nordisk and is the latest by the Ravnskjaer group to explore and understand the cellular complexity of chronic liver disease. The project will synergize with ongoing projects in the Ravnskjaer group and in the ATLAS center for functional genomics and tissue plasticity.