Millions of patients suffering from liver damage (cirrhosis) and failure may benefit from research by the Universities of Southampton and Edinburgh that could lead to new life-saving treatments. There is currently no cure for liver cirrhosis and a patient’s only hope of survival is to receive a liver transplant.
The Southampton scientists from the University’s Infection, Inflammation and Repair Division of the School of Medicine, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Edinburgh and Cincinnati, USA have, for the first time, identified two separate populations of immune cells — macrophages — in the liver. One group of macrophages causes scarring to the liver, but the next wave of immune cells, produced only a few days later, change function to break down and reabsorb the scarring. These findings, published in the January edition of Journal of Clinical Investigation, will help doctors to understand the mechanisms by which the liver is damaged and repaired and may lead to future treatments.
Professor John Iredale of the University of Southampton said: ‘We are facing a huge increase in the numbers of patients with advanced liver fibrosis (scarring) and cirrhosis (end stage scarring of the liver). Currently we have no effective treatment for liver cirrhosis which is associated with internal bleeding, liver failure and the development of primary liver cancer. There is a huge imperative to develop new approaches to the treatment of liver scarring. Exciting insights such as these will inform the design of future therapies.’
Sarah Watts | alfa
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