TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- The discovery of a protein involved in the life-threatening mechanism of liver fibrosis has helped a researcher at the Florida State University College of Medicine attract a $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.
Branko Stefanovic, associate professor in the department of biomedical sciences at the College of Medicine, hopes his discovery could lead to treatment methods that may stem the process of liver fibrosis. Cirrhosis, the terminal phase of the disease, kills 26,000 Americans each year -- the ninth leading cause of death in the United States.
Liver fibrosis refers to the accumulation of excess scar tissue in the liver through excess deposits of collagen, a fibrous protein found in skin, bone, and other connective tissues. The formation of scar tissue is a normal bodily response to injury, but in fibrosis the scarring begins to accumulate to unacceptable levels. The process can result from one of multiple causes, the most frequent of which are alcohol abuse and hepatitis C infection.
Fibrosis is difficult to detect until collagen deposits reach a point where the scarring has severely impaired organ function, meaning individuals suffering from the disease typically do not receive any treatment until it's too late.
"The capacity of liver cells to regenerate is great, so therefore normally the primary diseases that can lead to fibrosis do not kill the patient," Stefanovic said. "What kills the patient is secondary scarring and the replacement of normal liver tissue with scar tissue. Once this happens a liver cannot regenerate anymore."
Stefanovic and his research team made the important discovery of a protein involved in the scar formation process while working on a previous NIH grant. The RNA-binding protein, which Stefanovic has successfully cloned in his lab at the College of Medicine, is found at the place and specific time when the body is making collagen as part of th
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Florida State University