In a recent study, published in Cell Metabolism, researchers at the University of Minnesota Medical School have made new discoveries about regulation of disease pathogenesis in the liver. It can help better understand the conditions of the most common and growing nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), the researchers reported.
According to several studies, about 30% of population in America are at risk to advance to more serious conditions including cirrhosis, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), and cardiovascular disease as well as liver cancer. In the new study, the research team discovered that a metabolic dialogue or shuttle between hepatocyte and macrophage cell types helps protect the liver from tissue fibrosis.
Experimentally, when the researchers prevented a dialogue involving a particular ketone body metabolite, the liver became susceptible to more severe conditions of NAFLD such as scarring. Giving experimental animals the ketone body can help in protecting the liver from severe symptoms of the disease, co-author Peter Crawford said. He is the founding director of Division of Molecular Medicine and Professor of Medicine at the University of Minnesota Medical School.
According to the researchers, ketone bodies have been studied for many years and considered alternative fuels to fats or carbohydrates. However, the essential aspect of discrimination and specificity of how ketone bodies are selectively burned, and impact of this specificity on liver health was never known before.
The researchers also made an important discovery about the presence of a metabolic shuttle between two adjacent residing cell types within the liver. Crawford accredited this discovery to Patrycja Puchalska, Ph.D, a research fellow in his group and for the development of new metabolomics technologies which allowed the researcher to discover things as never before. Further, Crawford appreciated her who joined the endeavor as an organic analytical chemist and has matured into an even greater scientist.
The researchers believed that with the new discoveries, scientists around the world will now look differently at ketone bodies. Earlier, it was considered only as an alternative energy source to sugar, and for the first time, it is found that different ketone bodies have quite varying roles. “There is still work to be done”, said the research team.