A new association between alcoholic liver disease and the circadian clock - a body clock that regulates 24-hour rhythms across cells which is critical to maintain a normal healthy state has been identified by scientists.
The study, using molecular biological approaches and long-term alcohol feeding of experimental mice, revealed that the development of fatty liver disease by alcohol abuse is intertwined with disturbances of the normal operation of the 24-hour clock system located in the cells of the liver.
Importantly, this change in the liver clock seems to occur independently from the master clock system located in the brain, said researchers from the University of Notre Dame and the Indiana University School of Medicine in the US.
"Liver function changes daily in a rhythmic manner and is coordinated with cycles of feeding-fasting and to the energy demands of the body, such as activity and rest," said associate professor Giles Duffield from Notre Dame's department of biological sciences.
"These daily rhythms are regulated by the circadian clock within those liver cells, and disturbances to the molecular clock mechanism or poor temporal coordination of the clock with the timing of eating, or the sleep-wake and rest-activity cycle, can lead to illness," he added.
The study suggests that either the circadian clock is important in the actual development of the liver disease or that the development of fatty liver disease disrupts the normal pattern of the clock mechanism.
"The findings offer novel insights into how the disease might be manipulated for clinical purposes," said Suthat Liangpunsakul from the Indiana University School of Medicine's department of medicine, division of gastroenterology and hepatology.
Alcohol-induced fatty liver disease or liver steatosis is produced by excessive alcohol consumption and is linked to hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver.
It can be a precursor to an even more serious illness, liver cirrhosis, which includes scarring of the liver.