Dr. Laurence Britton, a University of Queensland researcher and PhD student has solved a mystery involving non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. He has discovered a crucial mechanism where iron has the ability to make the liver more susceptible to metabolic dysfunction and injury that can occur before the disease begins to appear.
Based on Dr. Britton’s research, iron reduces ApoE, a protective hormone in the body which is responsible for fat regulation and insulin resistance. This discovery explains why type 1 diabetes and obesity are major risks for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. This can help researchers create better therapeutics for this condition. Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease affects around one in every five Australians (5.5 million people).
This research was published in the Cellular and Molecular Gastroenterology and Hepatology journal. Dr. Britton’s discovery is essential in the fight against this disease, according to Professor Darrell Crawford from UQ’s Faculty of Medicine.
“With our growing obesity epidemic and no known cure for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, an increasing number of people are sitting on a silent killer”, he said. “There may be symptoms such as fatigue, pain or weight loss – or no symptoms at all.”
Past research has shown that iron, insulin and fat cells all play a major role in non-alcoholic fatty liver disease but researchers were not sure how did they affect each other.