A team at The Scripps Research Institute has developed a compound that reduced and even reversed fatty liver disease in animals, and had the added bonus of reducing plasma cholesterol levels. The details of the study were published in ACS Chemical Biology.
Fatty liver disease doesn't sound too good--and it isn't. Fats accumulate in the liver and can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer. It affects up to a quarter of the general population worldwide, and is linked with being overweight and with Type 2 diabetes. There are currently very few effective treatments.
"We've been working on a pair of natural proteins called LXRα and LXRβ that stimulate fat production in the liver, and we thought our compound might be able to successfully suppress this process," said Thomas Burris, a professor at The Scripps Research Institute.
The researchers created and tested SR9238, a type of drug known as a synthetic LXR inverse agonist and thought to be the first drug effectively to suppress fat production in the liver. In mice fed with a high-fat diet, treatment with SR9238 cut fat production in the liver 90% and reversed the disease within a month even while the animals still ate fatty foods. It also cut levels of blood cholesterol by targeting the same enzyme as statins. There were no major side effects.
This is in preclinical studies and is at the very early stage of development, but if similar results can be replicated in humans, it could have potential in both nonalcoholic and alcoholic fatty liver disease.