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NIH awards WSU researcher $1.7 million to study non-alcoholic fatty liver disease
Date:7/28/2011

DETROIT Kezhong Zhang, Ph.D., assistant professor of molecular medicine and genetics and of immunology and microbiology in the School of Medicine at Wayne State University, was awarded $1.7 million by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases of the National Institutes of Health to explore how molecular elements in the body regulate the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

The liver is an irreplaceable organ responsible for processing foods into essential energy and nutrients. According to the American Liver Foundation, 25 percent of Americans suffer from NAFLD, which involves the buildup of excess fat in the liver. Fatty liver disease is typically attributed to the consumption of alcohol, but NAFLD is a form of fatty liver disease that occurs even if a person does not consume alcohol. The condition frequently precedes or coexists with obesity, Type 2 diabetes or cardiovascular disease.

Zhang aims to identify the mechanism that regulates CREBH (cyclic AMP-responsive element-binding protein H), a transcription factor he believes is closely associated with the progression of NAFLD. Transcription factors are molecules that either promote or block the body from interpreting the DNA codes that tell the body what kind of proteins it needs to produce.

"Recently, we have accumulated strong preliminary evidence that CREBH plays a crucial role in regulating hepatic lipid homeostasis under metabolic stress conditions," Zhang said. In a previous study, Zhang and his colleagues found that when they removed CREBH from the animal body, the accumulation of fat was reduced in the liver but increased in the blood stream.

Zhang hypothesizes that an excess of saturated fatty acids or inflammatory stimuli activates CREBH to facilitate fat production and digestion. Because fat contents are stuck in the liver, CREBH activity is crucial for the excessive fat buildup that characterizes and propagat
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Contact: Julie O'Connor
julie.oconnor@wayne.edu
313-577-8845
Wayne State University - Office of the Vice President for Research
Source:Eurekalert

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