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MDC researchers develop new approach to treat acute liver failure
Date:8/3/2012

Acute liver failure is a life-threatening disease, characterized by a sudden, massive death of liver cells. Unfortunately, few treatment options exist, especially for advanced-stage liver failure. As a last resort a liver transplant may be the only remaining option. Now the physician Dr. Junfeng An of the Max Delbrck Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC) Berlin-Buch and Dr. Stefan Donath, a specialist in internal medicine and cardiology, also of the MDC and Helios Klinikum Berlin-Buch, have developed a new treatment approach based on a mouse model. In their current study published in (Hepatology, doi:101002/hep.25697; Vol. 56, No. 2, August 2012)*, the liver failure was reversed and the mice recovered completely. The researchers hope to soon be able to test their new approach in clinical trials with patients.

According to an estimate published in a 2011 issue of the "Deutsche rzteblatt", a professional journal for German physicians, between 200 and 500 patients suffer from acute liver failure in Germany each year. Poisoning from mushrooms or drugs is one of the main causes of this serious liver disease. In Southern Europe, Africa and Asia an acute infection with the hepatitis B virus is considered to be the most important cause.

For their treatment approach the two researchers utilized the recently discovered protein ARC (apoptosis repressor with caspase recruitment domain), which serves as the body's own survival switch. ARC is expressed in heart and skeletal muscle and in the brain, but not in the liver. In 2006 Dr. Donath showed that apoptosis is the cause for the death of myocardial cells during heart failure, but that ARC stopped the myocardial cells from being destroyed.

Apoptosis protects the body from diseased or defective cells. In tumor cells apoptosis is deactivated, allowing the cancer cells to proliferate uncontrollably. Cancer researchers are therefore striving to utilize apoptosis to develop a treatment. They are
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Contact: bachtler@mdc-berlin.de
bachtler@mdc-berlin.de
49-309-406-3896
Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres
Source:Eurekalert

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