Study finds genes linked with unhealthy liver function in obese diabetics

Thu, 03 Oct 2013
Scientists in America have discovered genes that could help identify diabetes patients who are at high risk of developing non-alcoholic fatty-liver disease (NAFLD).

The finding comes researchers at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Arizona who conducted a study of nearly 2,300 extremely obese patients with diabetes to investigate how genomic factors affect the development of NAFLD in this group of patients.

The study identified a number of genetic factors associated with unhealthy liver function, which could help scientists "identify patients who are most at risk of developing non-alcoholic forms of fatty-liver disease (NAFLD), and which patients may be more likely to progress to severe forms of NAFLD, such as steatohepatitis (NASH)", explained lead author Dr. Johanna DiStefano, Director of TGen’s Diabetes, Cardiovascular and Metabolic Diseases Division.

Non alcoholic fatty liver disease is caused by the build up of extra fat within liver cells, and is one of the most common causes of chronic liver disease. Like NAFLD, NASH is a non-alcohol related condition that occurs when excess fat in the liver becomes inflamed and damaged.

"Our results showed evidence for new genetic loci that may play a role in the biological mechanisms of NAFLD and NASH," said co-investigator Dr. Glenn S. Gerhard, of the Geisinger Health System, which partnered TGen for the groundbreaking research.

"We discovered genes that may help identify those patients most at risk for the types of liver disease so severe that they could require transplants."

The study findings are set to be presented next month at the 64th annual meeting of the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases in Washington, D.C.
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