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Monday 24th October 2016

Drug to reverse liver disease

27th September 2006

27092006_liver1.jpgResearch by a team from the University of Newcastle suggests that a drug could reverse severe liver disease.

The researchers say that Sulfasalazine, currently used to treat arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease, can also reverse the scarring associated with cirrhosis of the liver.

Liver disease is the fifth highest cause of death in the UK, with an estimated 10% of the UK population having liver problems, which are often linked to lifestyle factors, for example heavy drinking and obesity.

It had been thought that the scarring associated with cirrhosis was irreversible, but this study has shown that Sulfasalazine can help in the recovery process.

Specialised cells, called hepatic myofibroblasts, create scar tissue in a diseased liver, also secreting proteins preventing the breakdown of scar tissue.  Sulfasalazine blocks the production of these proteins.

The researchers plan to trial the drug in humans, firstly with heavy drinkers who have given up alcohol, but whose livers would not recover naturally.

They hope that the drug may provide an alternative to a liver transplant. Lead researcher Professor Derek Mann, said even a 5% to 10% recovery of the liver could have a huge impact on quality of life.

Anne Jenkins, from the charity Alcohol Concern, welcomed the research, but cautioned "this work is at an early stage, and more needs to be done." 

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