Calcipotriol, a synthetic derivative of vitamin D, has been found to be effective in stopping fibrosis of liver in a recent animal study conducted at Salk Institute for Biological Studies.
Excessive accumulation of fibrous scar tissue is called fibrosis. Chronic liver diseases such as hepatitis virus infection, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (accumulation of fat in the liver, along with inflammation and damage, in people who drink little or no alcohol) and excessive alcohol consumption damage the liver tissue, cause fibrosis. Fibrosis affects the structure and function of the liver and leads to cirrhosis, which is a high risk factor for cancer.
AdvertisementThe star-shaped "stellate" cells in the liver upon activation produce collagen and result in fibrosis. Researchers initially found high levels of vitamin D receptor (VDR) in the stellate cell and the genome responsible for activation of fibrosis.
"Preclinical results suggest the 'vitamin D brake' is highly efficacious and led us to believe that the time is right to consider a trial in the context of chronic liver disease," says Ronald M. Evans, lead researcher and professor in Salk's Gene Expression Laboratory.
In their experiment, scientists found that calcipotriol had a positive effect in controlling the initiation of fibrosis in mouse liver. Authors consider this as a promising and safe strategy in treating fibrosis. Currently there is no treatment to stop the progress of fibrosis.
"Because there are currently no effective drugs for liver fibrosis, we believe our findings would open a new door for treatment," says Evans.
Researchers preferred synthetic vitamin D to natural vitamin D due to the facts that natural vitamin D degrades very quickly and they may increase blood calcium levels, which in turn may lead to nausea and vomiting, frequent urination, muscle weakness, joint aches and pain. Synthetic vitamin D, on the other hand, provides a strong response without increasing calcium levels in the blood.
The result of the study has encouraged the authors to plan for clinical trials for treating liver fibrosis.
The findings are published in the journal Cell.