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Should we undertake surveillance for HCC in patients with NAFLD? Should we undertake surveillance for HCC in patients with NAFLD?

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Date added: 11/02/2018
Date modified: 11/02/2018
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The pandemic of obesity and its related complications is rapidly changing the epidemiology of many types of cancer, including hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is becoming a major cause of HCC, with a steadily rising trend compared to viral or alcohol-induced chronic hepatitis. The much greater prevalence of the underlying liver disease in the general population and the chance of HCC occurrence in non-cirrhotic liver are the most worrisome aspects of HCC in NAFLD. Effective screening programmes are currently hampered by limited knowledge of the pathways of carcinogenesis and a lack of tools able to stratify the risk of HCC in the NAFLD population. Hence, poor surveillance has prevented the development of an adequate treatment for NAFLD-related HCC. Systemic and hepatic molecular mechanisms involved in hepatocarcinogenesis, as well as potential early markers of HCC are being extensively investigated. This review describes the current clinical impact of HCC in NAFLD and discusses the most important unmet needs for its effective management.

Global burden of NAFLD and NASH: trends, predictions, risk factors and prevention Global burden of NAFLD and NASH: trends, predictions, risk factors and prevention

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Date added: 11/01/2018
Date modified: 11/01/2018
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NAFLD is one of the most important causes of liver disease worldwide and will probably emerge as the leading cause of end-stage liver disease in the coming decades, with the disease affecting both adults and children. The epidemiology and demographic characteristics of NAFLD vary worldwide, usually parallel to the prevalence of obesity, but a substantial proportion of patients are lean. The large number of patients with NAFLD with potential for progressive liver disease creates challenges for screening, as the diagnosis of NASH necessitates invasive liver biopsy. Furthermore, individuals with NAFLD have a high frequency of metabolic comorbidities and could place a growing strain on health-care systems from their need for management. While awaiting the development effective therapies, this disease warrants the attention of primary care physicians, specialists and health policy makers.

Altered amino acid concentrations in NAFLD: Impact of obesity and insulin resistance Altered amino acid concentrations in NAFLD: Impact of obesity and insulin resistance

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Date added: 11/01/2018
Date modified: 11/01/2018
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Plasma concentrations of amino acids (AAs), in particular, branched chain AAs (BCAAs), are often found increased in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD); however, if this is due to increased muscular protein catabolism, obesity, and/or increased insulin resistance (IR) or impaired tissue metabolism is unknown. Thus, we evaluated a) if subjects with NAFLD without obesity (NAFLD-NO) compared to those with obesity (NAFLD-Ob) display altered plasma AAs compared to controls (CTs); and b) if AA concentrations are associated with IR and liver histology. Glutamic acid, serine, and glycine concentrations are known to be altered in NAFLD. Because these AAs are involved in glutathione synthesis, we hypothesized they might be related to the severity of NAFLD. We therefore measured the AA profile of 44 subjects with NAFLD without diabetes and who had a liver biopsy (29 NAFLD-NO and 15 NAFLD-Ob) and 20 CTs without obesity, by gas chromatography–mass
spectrometry, homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance, hepatic IR (Hep-IR; Hep-IR 5 endogenous glucose production 3 insulin), and the new glutamate–serine–glycine (GSG) index (glutamate/[serine 1 glycine]) and tested for an association with liver histology. Most AAs were increased only in NAFLD-Ob subjects. Only alanine, glutamate, isoleucine, and valine, but not leucine, were increased in NAFLD-NO subjects compared to CTs. Glutamate, tyrosine, and the GSG-index were correlated with Hep-IR. The GSG-index correlated with liver enzymes, in particular, gamma-glutamyltransferase (R 5 0.70), independent of body mass index. Ballooning and/or inflammation at liver biopsy were associated with increased plasma BCAAs and aromatic AAs and were mildly associated with the GSG-index, while only the new GSG-index was able to discriminate fibrosis F3-4 from F0-2 in this cohort.

Conclusion: Increased plasma AA concentrations were observed mainly in subjects with obesity and NAFLD, likely as a consequence of increased IR and protein catabolism. The GSG-index is a possible marker of severity of liver disease independent of body mass index.

Inflammation induced IgA+ cells dismantle anti-liver cancer immunity Inflammation induced IgA+ cells dismantle anti-liver cancer immunity

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Date added: 08/07/2018
Date modified: 08/07/2018
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The role of adaptive immunity in early cancer development is controversial. Here we show that chronic inflammation and fibrosis in humans and mice with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is accompanied by accumulation of liver-resident immunoglobulin-A-producing (IgA+) cells. These cells also express programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1) and interleukin-10, and directly suppress liver cytotoxic CD8+ T lymphocytes, which prevent emergence of hepatocellular carcinoma and express a limited repertoire of T-cell receptors against tumour-associated antigens. Whereas CD8+ T-cell ablation accelerates hepatocellular carcinoma, genetic or pharmacological interference with IgA+ cell generation attenuates liver carcinogenesis and induces cytotoxic T-lymphocyte-mediated regression of established hepatocellular carcinoma. These findings establish the importance of inflammation-induced suppression of cytotoxic CD8+ T-lymphocyte activation as a tumour-promoting mechanism.

Predictors of Liver Fat and Stiffness in Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) – an 11-Year... Predictors of Liver Fat and Stiffness in Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) – an 11-Year...

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Date added: 08/07/2018
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"Predictors of Liver Fat and Stiffness in Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) – an 11-Year Prospective Study"

Liver fat can be non-invasively measured by proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (1H-MRS) and fibrosis estimated as stiffness using transient elastography (FibroScan). There are no longitudinal data on changes in liver fat in Europids or on predictors of liver stiffness using these methods. We determined liver fat (1H-MRS) and clinical characteristics including features of insulin resistance at baseline and after a median follow-up period of 11.3 (range 7.3–13.4) years in 97 Finnish subjects. Liver stiffness was measured at 11.3 years. Liver fat content decreased by 5% (p < 0.05) over time. Values at baseline and 11.3 years were closely interrelated (r = 0.81, p < 0.001). Baseline liver fat (OR 1.32; 95%CI: 1.15–1.50) and change in BMI (OR 1.67; 95%CI: 1.24–2.25) were independent predictors of liver fat at 11.3 years (AUROC 0.90; 95%CI: 0.83–0.96). Baseline liver fat (AUROC 0.84; 95%CI: 0.76–0.92) predicted liver fat at 11.3 years more accurately than routinely available parameters (AUROC 0.76; 95%CI: 0.65–0.86, p = 0.02). At 11.3 years, 29% of the subjects had increased liver stiffness. Baseline liver fat (OR 2.17; 95%CI: 1.05–4.46) was an independent predictor of increased liver stiffness. These data show that liver fat is more important than the associated metabolic abnormalities as the predictor of future liver fat and fibrosis.

Insulin resistance and reduced metabolic flexibility: cause or consequence of NAFLD? Insulin resistance and reduced metabolic flexibility: cause or consequence of NAFLD?

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Date added: 08/07/2018
Date modified: 08/07/2018
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Whether non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) precedes insulin resistance (IR) or IR preludes/causes NAFLD has been long debated. Recent studies have shown that there are two phenotypes of NAFLD, ‘genetic’ vs ‘metabolic’ NAFLD. The former patients are more at risk of hepatocellular carcinoma and chronic liver disease the latter are more IR and at increased risk of type 2 diabetes (T2D). Even if they are not yet diabetics, from a metabolic point of view having NAFLD is equivalent to T2D with reduced peripheral glucose disposal and impaired suppression of hepatic glucose production, but without fasting hyperglycaemia. T2D develops only when hepatic autoregulation is lost and glucose production exceeds the capacity of muscle glucose disposal.

In NAFLD adipocytes are resistant to the effect of insulin, lipolysis is increased and excess plasma free fatty acids (FFA) are taken up by other organs (mainly liver) where they are stored as lipid droplets or oxidized. Increased adiposity is associated with worsen severity of both ‘genetic’ and ‘metabolic’ NAFLD. FFA oxidative metabolism is increased in NAFLD and not shifted towards glucose during insulin infusion. Although this reduced metabolic flexibility is an early predictor of T2D, it can be seen also as a protective mechanism against excess FFA.

In conclusion, IR precedes and causes ‘metabolic’ NAFLD, but not ‘genetic’ NAFLD. Reduced metabolic flexibility in NAFLD might be seen as a protective mechanism against FFA overflow, but together with IR remains a strong risk factor for T2D that develops with the worsening of hepatic regulation of glucose production.

The good and the bad collagens of fibrosis – Their role in signaling and organ function The good and the bad collagens of fibrosis – Their role in signaling and organ function

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Date added: 08/07/2018
Date modified: 08/07/2018
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Usually the dense extracellular structure in fibrotic tissues is described as extracellular matrix (ECM) or simply as collagen. However, fibrosis is not just fibrosis, which is already exemplified by the variant morphological characteristics of fibrosis due to viral versus cholestatic, autoimmune or toxic liver injury, with reticular, chicken wire and bridging fibrosis. Importantly, the overall composition of the ECM, especially the relative amounts of the many types of collagens, which represent the most abundant ECM molecules and which centrally modulate cellular functions and physiological processes, changes dramatically during fibrosis progression.

We hypothesize that there are good and bad collagens in fibrosis and that a change of location alone may change the function from good to bad. Whereas basement membrane collagen type IV anchors epithelial and other cells in a polarized manner, the interstitial fibroblast collagens type I and III do not provide directional information. In addition, feedback loops from biologically active degradation products of some collagens are examples of the importance of having the right collagen at the right place and at the right time controlling cell function, proliferation, matrix production and fate. Examples are the interstitial collagen type VI and basement membrane collagen type XVIII. Their carboxyterminal propeptides serve as an adipose tissue hormone, endotrophin, and as a regulator of angiogenesis, endostatin, respectively.

We provide an overview of the 28 known collagen types and propose that the molecular composition of the ECM in fibrosis needs careful attention to assess its impact on organ function and its potential to progress or reverse. Consequently, to adequately assess fibrosis and to design optimal antifibrotic therapies, we need to dissect the molecular entity of fibrosis for the molecular composition and spatial distribution of collagens and the associated ECM.

Systematic review of bariatric surgery liver biopsies clarifies the natural history of liver disease Systematic review of bariatric surgery liver biopsies clarifies the natural history of liver disease

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Date added: 08/03/2018
Date modified: 08/03/2018
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"Systematic review of bariatric surgery liver biopsies clarifies the natural history of liver disease in patients with severe obesity"

Objective:
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a frequent complication of morbid obesity, but its severity varies greatly and thus there is a strong need to better define its natural history in these patients.

Design:
Liver biopsies were systematically performed in 798 consecutive patients with severe obesity undergoing bariatric surgery. Histology was compared with clinical, biological, anthropometrical and body composition characteristics.

Results:
Patients with presumably normal liver (n=179, 22%) were significantly younger at bariatric surgery than patients with NAFLD (37.0 vs 44.4 years, p<0.0001). However, both groups showed quite similar obesity duration, since patients with presumably normal liver reported the onset of obesity at a significantly younger age than those with NAFLD (14.8 vs 20.0 year, p<0.0001). The trunk/limb fat mass ratio increased according to liver disease severity (presumably normal liver: 1.00, steatosis: 1.21, non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH): 1.34, p<0.0001), although the total body fat mass decreased ( presumably normal liver: 50%, steatosis: 49.1%, NASH: 47.4%, p<0.0001). The volume of subcutaneous adipocytes increased according to severity of liver disease but only in female patients (presumably normal liver: 8543 picolitres, steatosis: 9156 picolitres, NASH: 9996 picolitres).

Conclusions:
These results suggest that young adults are more prone to store fat in subcutaneous tissue and reach the threshold of bariatric surgery indication before their liver is damaged. A shift of fat storage from subcutaneous to visceral adipose tissue compartment is associated with liver damages. Liver might also be targeted by subcutaneous hypertrophic adipocytes in females since hypertrophic adipocytes are more exposed to lipolysis and to the production of inflammatory mediators.

Impaired hepatic lipid synthesis from polyunsaturated fatty acids in TM6SF2 E167K variant carriers.. Impaired hepatic lipid synthesis from polyunsaturated fatty acids in TM6SF2 E167K variant carriers..

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Date added: 06/02/2018
Date modified: 06/02/2018
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"Impaired hepatic lipid synthesis from polyunsaturated fatty acids in TM6SF2 E167K variant carriers with NAFLD"

Background:
Carriers of the transmembrane 6 superfamily member 2 E167K gene variant (TM6SF2^EK/KK) have decreased expression of the TM6SF2 gene and increased risk of NAFLD and NASH. Unlike common ‘obese/metabolic’ NAFLD, these subjects lack hypertriglyceridemia and have lower risk of cardiovascular disease. In animals, phosphatidylcholine (PC) deficiency results in a similar phenotype. PCs surround the core of VLDL consisting of triglycerides (TGs) and cholesteryl-esters (CEs). We determined the effect of the TM6SF2 E167K on these lipids in the human liver and serum and on hepatic gene expression and studied the effect of TM6SF2 knockdown on hepatocyte handling of these lipids.

Methods:
Liver biopsies were taken from subjects characterized with respect to the TM6SF2 genotype, serum and liver lipidome, gene expression and histology. In vitro, after TM6SF2 knockdown in HuH-7 cells, we compared incorporation of different fatty acids into TGs, CEs, and PCs.

Results:
The TM6SF2^EK/KK and TM6SF2^EE groups had similar age, gender, BMI and HOMA-IR. Liver TGs and CEs were higher and liver PCs lower in the TM6SF2^EK/KK than the TM6SF2^EE group (p <0.05). Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) were deficient in liver and serum TGs and liver PCs but hepatic free fatty acids were relatively enriched in PUFA (p <0.05). Incorporation of PUFA into TGs and PCs in TM6SF2 knockdown hepatocytes was decreased (p <0.05). Hepatic expression of TM6SF2 was decreased in variant carriers, and was co-expressed with genes regulated by PUFAs.

Conclusions:
Hepatic lipid synthesis from PUFAs is impaired and could contribute to deficiency in PCs and increased intrahepatic TG in TM6SF2 E167K variant carriers.

MBOAT7 rs641738 variant and hepatocellular carcinoma in non-cirrhotic individuals MBOAT7 rs641738 variant and hepatocellular carcinoma in non-cirrhotic individuals

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Date added: 06/02/2018
Date modified: 06/02/2018
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Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) represents an emerging cause of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), especially in non-cirrhotic individuals. The rs641738 C > T MBOAT7/TMC4 variant predisposes to progressive NAFLD, but the impact on hepatic carcinogenesis is unknown. In Italian NAFLD patients, the rs641738 T allele was associated with NAFLD-HCC (OR 1.65, 1.08–2.55; n = 765), particularly in those without advanced fibrosis (p < 0.001). The risk T allele was linked to 3’-UTR variation in MBOAT7 and to reduced MBOAT7 expression in patients without severe fibrosis. The number of PNPLA3, TM6SF2, and MBOAT7 risk variants was associated with NAFLD-HCC independently of clinical factors (p < 0.001), but did not significantly improve their predictive accuracy. When combining data from an independent UK NAFLD cohort, in the overall cohort of non-cirrhotic patients (n = 913, 41 with HCC) the T allele remained associated with HCC (OR 2.10, 1.33–3.31). Finally, in a combined cohort of non-cirrhotic patients with chronic hepatitis C or alcoholic liver disease (n = 1121), the T allele was independently associated with HCC risk (OR 1.93, 1.07–3.58). In conclusion, the MBOAT7 rs641738 T allele is associated with reduced MBOAT7 expression and may predispose to HCC in patients without cirrhosis, suggesting it should be evaluated in future prospective studies aimed at stratifying NAFLD-HCC risk.