Studying mice, researchers have found a way to prevent nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, the most common cause of chronic liver disease worldwide. Blocking a path that delivers dietary fructose to the liver prevented mice from developing the condition, according to investigators at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
The study appears in a recent issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.
In people, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease often accompanies obesity, elevated blood sugar, high blood pressure and other markers of metabolic syndrome. Some estimate as many as 1 billion people worldwide have fatty liver disease, though some may not realize it.
"Fatty liver disease is a major topic of research right now," said first author Brian J. DeBosch, MD, PhD, clinical fellow in pediatric gastroenterology. "There are competing hypotheses about the origins of metabolic syndrome. One of these hypotheses is that insulin resistance begins to develop in the liver first. The thought is if we can prevent the liver from becoming unhealthy to begin with, maybe we can block the entire process from moving forward."
The research team, led by Kelle H. Moley, MD, the James P. Crane Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, showed that a molecule called GLUT8 carries large amounts of fructose into liver cells. Fructose is a type of sugar found in many foods. It is present naturally in fruit and is added to soft drinks and myriad other products in the form of high-fructose corn syrup.
Scientists have known that fructose is processed in the liver and stored there as fat in the form of triglycerides. In this study, researchers showed that blocking or eliminating GLUT8 in mice reduced the amount of fructose entering the organ and appeared to prevent the development of fatty livers. Mice with GLUT8 deficiency also appeared to burn liver fat at a faster rate than control mice.
"We showed that GLUT8 is requ
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Washington University School of Medicine