Researcher Dr Jeremy Duffield explained: "The links between the immune
system, inflammation and scarring in the liver have not been well
understood, and this has hindered progress in finding ways to prevent
and repair liver damage. Now that we have shown how the macrophages
work, we aim to find out how to create, activate and de-activate these
cells to make them repair, rather than damage, liver tissue."
He added: "Cirrhosis, commonly, but not always, caused by alcohol
consumption, can lead to liver failure. At a time when outcomes for
other diseases, such as cancers and heart trouble, have made dramatic
gains, liver damage - described as the new plague of the 21st century -
has yet to be understood and in turn, to become treatable. More women
in the UK now die of liver failure than do of cancer of the cervix.
"There has been a fourfold increase in the number of men aged 45-54
dying of cirrhosis since 1970 and a threefold increase in women of the
same age group. Liver failure is also rapidly increasi
ng in younger
people with the deaths in the UK of 500 men and 300 women aged 25-44,
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."
Further research into macrophages is set to follow and scientists will
explore the role of these immune-system cells in damage and repair to
other organs, including the kidney.
Source:University of Edinburgh
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