A synthetic drug that can reverse fatty liver disease, a serious metabolic condition involving an abnormal build-up of fat in the liver, which damages the organ, has been developed by the scientists.
Fatty liver, which often accompanies obesity and type-2 diabetes, frequently leads to more serious conditions including cirrhosis and liver cancer, according to a 2003 study reported in GUT, the journal of gastroenterology and hepatology.
The compound known as SR9238 is the first to effectively suppress lipid or fat production in the liver, eliminating inflammation and reversing fat accumulation in animal models of fatty liver disease, the journal Chemical Biology reports.
Researchers from the Florida campus of the Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) found the new compound also significantly lowered total cholesterol levels.
"We've been working on a pair of natural proteins called LXR alpha and LXR beta that stimulate fat production in the liver, and we thought our compound might be able to successfully suppress this process," said Thomas Burris, professor at TSRI, who led the study, according to a Scripps statement.
"Once the animals were put on the drug, we were able to reverse the disease after a single month with no adverse side effects while they ate a high-fat diet," added Burris.
Burris and his colleagues designed SR9238 so that it would be quickly metabolized in the liver to minimize migration of the drug into the bloodstream, which could lead to side effects.
In the study, mice were fed a high-fat diet for 14 weeks prior to treatment with SR9238. After one month of treatment, the scientists found that the liver's fat-producing genes were repressed and fat expression in the liver was reduced up to 90 percent.
In addition, the scientists observed an 80 percent reduction of the enzyme responsible for producing cholesterol - the same enzyme targeted by medicines.
Markers for liver damage were down as well, which suggests the compound may also have the potential to treat alcohol-related fatty liver damage.