March 31, 2014
1 min read

Therapy could prolong life for cirrhotic patients awaiting liver transplant

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New data from an animal study suggest possible treatment could postpone liver failure in patients with cirrhosis who are awaiting liver transplantation, according to a Rice University press release.

Researchers from Rice University, the University of Pittsburgh, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center used an animal model for cirrhosis and collected hepatocyte samples to see how liver cells produced adenosine triphosphate (ATP) during late-stage cirrhosis. They found that during fibrosis, cells up-regulate the glycolytic pathway and produce more energy in response to the disease, according to the release. As a result of this vast increase in metabolic output, cells are unable to sustain their glycolytic output in the final stage and ATP production fails, causing liver failure.

The genetic patterns in the animal model then were compared to genetic profiles of 216 patients with cirrhosis. Deepak Nagrath, PhD, director of Rice University’s Laboratory for Systems Biology of Human Diseases, said in the release, these findings are important because clinicians can use drugs to target the glucose pathway and potentially increase glycolytic energy production.

“This would not represent a cure for liver disease,” Nagrath said. “It would only apply to patients in the final stage of liver disease, but if such treatments did prove effective, they could extend the lives of some patients who are awaiting transplants.”

More than 17,000 Americans currently are waiting for a liver transplant, and approximately 1,500 of them will die this year while awaiting transplantation, according to the release.