According to Newcastle University researchers, a blood pressure drug has been found to be effective in reducing liver scarring in hepatitis C patients.
They showed that losartan, a drug normally prescribed for hypertension, could reverse the effects of early-stage liver failure in some patients.
About half the 14 patients administered the drug saw the scars in their liver shrink allowing the organ to repair itself.
"At the moment we have no proven effective way of treating people with chronic liver disease other than transplantation," said Professor Derek Mann from Newcastle University.
"This early stage trial has shown that we can shrink liver scarring in some patients and shows promise for a treatment that could make a huge difference to the lives of thousands of people," he added.
Liver damage, known as fibrosis, is caused by the unwanted accumulation of excess fibrous connective tissue, which is produced and maintained by a specialized cell, the liver myofibroblast.
In chronic liver disease a signaling pathway is created that instructs the liver myofibroblast to stay alive and proliferate. It is this pathway that then causes scar tissue to accumulate, creating the liver damage.
The researchers believe that the drug blocks the signaling pathway so that the liver myofibroblasts die, removing the source of scar tissue.
As the scar tissue breaks up, the damaged area of the liver is repaired by the body.