Liver damage could be reversed2nd January 2008
Researchers in the United States say it may be possible to reverse some liver damage caused by heavy drinking or hepatitis.
Heavy alcohol consumption and hepatitis can lead to scarring of liver tissue; a process known as fibrosis.
Cirrhosis is a later stage of this scarring, when it becomes severe enough to impede the organ's functioning.
Scientists at the University of California San Diego Medical Center say they have now found a way to reverse this sort of liver damage by blocking a key protein which helps it to form.
Lead researcher Martina Buck said a new technique had been developed which could reverse liver damage by blocking a protein called RSK, which is released by the body as part of a healing process.
They gave this protein to mice with severe liver fibrosis, who showed no further fibrosis, while others with similar scarring but that did not receive the protein showed even worse scarring.
Cirrhosis of the liver in humans is currently only treatable by prevention, or in the case of hepatitis, treating the disease that caused it.
Buck said she felt that the treatment might be able to go further, and actually repair damage already caused.
Other conditions involving fibrosis, such as pulmonary fibrosis and scarring around burn injuries, could also potentially benefit, she added.
Experts said the research was promising, but still in its early stages.
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