Lay Summaries - Volume 4 Issue 11

Lay Summary:  In this study, we explored how different centres in Europe manage primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC), a rare inflammatory disease of the bile ducts. We collected information through a questionnaire sent to specialist physicians who were part of a European network for rare liver diseases. We found several differences in how patients with PSC were monitored and treated. This includes differences in surveillance for bile duct cancer, gallbladder polyps and inflammatory bowel disease. By pointing out these differences, we hope that management of PSC will be standardized, which could aid clinical research and benefit patients.
Lay Summary:  Novel treatment approaches against cholestatic liver disease (resulting in reduced or blocked flow of bile) involve non-absorbable inhibitors of the bile acid transport protein ASBT, but these are not always effective and/or can cause unwanted side effects. In this study, we demonstrate that systemic inhibition/inactivation of ASBT protects mice against developing severe cholestatic liver injury after bile duct ligation, by reducing bile salt pool size and increasing renal bile salt excretion.
Lay Summary:  Immunotherapy that aims to induce immune responses against a virus or tumour is a promising novel treatment option to treat chronic HBV infection and liver cancer. For the design of successful therapy, it is essential to know which fragments (i.e. peptides) of virus-derived and tumour-specific proteins are presented to the T cells of the immune system by diseased liver cells and are thus good targets for immunotherapy. Here, we have isolated liver cells from patients who have chronic HBV infection and/or liver cancer, analysed what peptides are presented by these cells, and assessed which peptides are able to drive immune responses.
Lay Summary:  Alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency is a genetic disease that affects the lung and the liver. Carrying two dysfunctional copies of the gene causes advanced liver disease. Harbouring one dysfunctional copy increases disease severity in patients with other liver illness. However, the significance of this genetic defect in patients who already suffer from advanced liver disease is unclear. Our study found that harbouring at least one dysfunctional copy of the alpha-1 antitrypsin gene increases the risk of requiring a liver transplantation or dying from a liver disease. This indicates the need for medical therapies aimed at treating the hepatic consequences of this genetic defect.
Lay Summary:  Bile acid accumulation-associated suppression of bile acid synthesis was apparent in patients with advanced PSC and associated with reduced transplantation-free survival. In a subset of the patients, bile acid synthesis was likely suppressed beyond a tipping point at which any further pharmacological suppression may be futile. Implications for patient stratification and inclusion criteria for clinical trials in PSC warrant further investigation.
Lay Summary:  Mobility restrictions and social stress induced by the COVID-19 pandemic have led to increased alcohol drinking and worsened metabolic control (e.g., weight gain, poor control of diabetes) in a large proportion of the population in many countries. We aimed to analyze whether people with cirrhosis due to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, who are particularly vulnerable to such lifestyle modifications, were significantly impacted during the first year of the pandemic. We compared the clinical situation of 354 patients one year before the pandemic and one year after. We found that although metabolic control was indeed worse after the first year of the pandemic and patients presented worse clinical outcomes, the latter was mostly due to non-liver causes, namely COVID-19 itself. Moreover, the care provided to these patients did not worsen during the first year of the pandemic.
Lay Summary:  Liver fibrosis is a typical progressive process of chronic liver disease, driven by inflammatory and immune responses, and is characterised by an excess of extracellular matrix in the liver. Currently, there is no effective therapeutic strategy for the treatment of liver fibrosis, resulting in high mortality worldwide. In this study, we found that myeloid-specific Xbp1 deficiency protected the liver against fibrosis in mice, while XBP1 inhibition ameliorated liver fibrosis in mice. This study concluded that targeting XBP1 signalling in macrophages may provide a novel strategy for protecting the liver against fibrosis.
Lay Summary:  People with compensated cirrhosis with larger spleen volume would have a higher risk of decompensation. We developed a spleen-based model and validated it in external validation cohorts. The proposed model might help predict hepatic decompensation in people with compensated cirrhosis when invasive tools are unavailable.
Lay Summary:  In people affected by primary biliary cholangitis (PBC), the histological appearance of extensive ductular reaction identifies individuals at risk of progressive fibrosis. Ductular reaction at diagnosis correlates with the lack of response to first-line therapy with ursodeoxycholic acid and serves to restore ductular–canalicular junctions in people with PBC. Assessing ductular reaction extension at diagnosis may add valuable information for clinicians.
Lay Summary:  Polycystic liver disease (PLD) is a highly variable condition that can be asymptomatic or severe. However, it is currently difficult to predict clinical outcomes such as hospitalization, symptom burden, and need for transplantation in individual patients. In the current study, we aimed to investigate the clinical value of genetic confirmation and an age-adjusted total liver volume classification for individual disease prediction. While genetic confirmation generally pointed to more severe disease, estimated age-adjusted increases in liver volume could be useful for predicting clinical outcomes.
Lay Summary:  The bile acid ursodeoxycholic acid (UDCA) is the standard-of-care therapy for primary biliary cholangitis (PBC), but approximately 40% of patients have an inadequate response to this therapy. Tropifexor is a highly potent non-bile acid agonist of the farnesoid X receptor that is under clinical development for various chronic liver diseases. In the current study, in patients with an inadequate response to UDCA, tropifexor was found to be safe and well tolerated, with improved levels of markers of bile duct injury at very low (microgram) doses. Itch of mild to moderate severity was observed in all groups including placebo but was more frequent at the highest tropifexor dose.
Lay Summary:  In this study, we assessed in people with primary sclerosing cholangitis (PSC) the association of novel objective quantitative MRCP metrics automatically provided by a software tool (MRCP+) with prognostic scores and patient outcomes. We observed that MRCP+ metrics in people with PSC correlate with biochemical, elastographic, and radiological prognostic scores and are predictive of adverse outcome-free survival.
Lay Summary:  ABCB4-related LPAC syndrome associated with an ABCB4 gene variant demonstrates more frequent and severe hepatobiliary MR abnormalities. This finding supports the major role of the ABCB4 gene in the pathogenesis of LPAC syndrome.
Lay Summary:  Hepatic venous pressure gradient >10 mmHg has been described as an accurate tool for the diagnosis of liver sinusoidal obstruction syndrome after hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. This study shows that the sensitivity and specificity of hepatic venous pressure gradient measurement for sinusoidal obstruction syndrome are insufficient, so that liver pressure measurement should be combined with a liver biopsy in this setting.