1 October 2019
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease comprises a range of conditions, ranging from the uncomplicated – hepatic steatosis – to the more severe hepatocellular carcinoma. Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a form of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in which there is hepatitis and liver cell damage, in addition to fat build-up. NASH may lead to cirrhosis or liver cancer and affects millions of people worldwide. To date, no drugs have been approved to cure NASH and the major obstacles in the development of high-potential anti-NASH drug candidates are the identification of possible drug targets and the lack of adequate NASH models.
Several animal models have been developed to study NASH, using genetic modifications, dietary-induced disease or a combination of these. However, due to the heterogeneous pathology of NASH, most animal models do not accurately represent the human condition and there is a need to develop new models that are more human-relevant and human-predictive than animals. Now, a team of innovative researchers at Vrije Universiteit in Brussels – led by Dr. Robim Rodriguez and Professor Tamara Vanhaecke – aims to find whether using stem cells grown from human skin will lead to better models for NASH that may indicate where to target more effective treatments.