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Journal: Journal of clinical and translational hepatology

139

Background and Aims: There has been increasing evidence that vitamin D deficiency may increase the risk of metabolic syndrome. Since metabolic syndrome is a major risk factor for non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), we aimed to investigate the association between vitamin D and the severity and mortality of NAFLD. Methods: Data was obtained from the United States Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted in 1988-1994, with follow-up mortality data through 2011. NAFLD was defined by ultrasonographic detection of hepatic steatosis in the absence of other liver diseases and categorized as normal, mild, moderate or severe. The severity of hepatic fibrosis was determined by NAFLD fibrosis score (NFS). ANOVA (F-test) was used to evaluate the association between vitamin D level and degree of NAFLD, and Cox proportional hazards regression analysis was used for survival analyses. Results: Vitamin D levels for normal, mild, moderate and severe steatosis were 25.1 ± 0.29 ng/mL, 24.7 ± 0.42 ng/mL, 23.7 ± 0.37 ng/mL and 23.6 ± 0.60 ng/mL, respectively (trend p < 0.001). Likewise, vitamin D levels for low, intermediate and high NFS categories were 24.7 ± 0.38 ng/mL, 23.4 ± 0.42 ng/mL and 21.5 ± 0.57 ng/mL, respectively (trend p < 0.001). After median-follow up over 19 years, vitamin D deficiency was significantly associated with diabetes- and Alzheimer's disease-related mortality (hazard ratio (HR): 3.64, 95%CI: 1.51-8.82 and HR: 4.80, 95%CI: 1.53-15.1, respectively), with a borderline significance in overall mortality (HR: 1.16, 95%CI: 0.99-1.36, p = 0.06). Conclusions: Vitamin D level was inversely related to the degree of liver steatosis and fibrosis. Moreover, vitamin D deficiency was associated with diabetes- and Alzheimer's disease-related mortality in NAFLD patients.

Concepts: Vitamin D, Nutrition, Obesity, Cirrhosis, Metabolic syndrome, Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, Fatty liver, Steatosis

139

Hepatocarcinogenesis is a multistep process, heralded by abnormalities in cell differentiation and proliferation and sustained by an aberrant neoangiogenesis. Understanding the underlying molecular pathogenesis leading to hepatocellular carcinoma is a prerequisite to develop new drugs that will hamper or block the steps of these pathways. As hepatocellular carcinoma has higher arterial vascularization than normal liver, this could be a good target for novel molecular therapies. Introduction of the antiangiogenic drug sorafenib into clinical practice since 2008 has led to new perspectives in the management of this tumor. The importance of this drug lies not only in the modest gain of patients' survival, but in having opened a roadmap towards the development of new molecules and targets. Unfortunately, after the introduction of sorafenib, during the last years, a wide number of clinical trials on antiangiogenic therapies failed in achieving significant results. However, many of these trials are still ongoing and promise to improve overall survival and progression-free survival. A recent clinical trial has proven regorafenib effective in patients showing tumor progression under sorafenib, thus opening new interesting therapeutic perspectives. Many other expectations have been borne from the discovery of the immune checkpoint blockade, already known in other solid malignancies. Furthermore, a potential role in hepatocellular carcinoma therapy may derive from the use of branched-chain amino acids and of nutritional support. This review analyses the biomolecular pathways of hepatocellular carcinoma and the ongoing studies, the actual evidence and the future perspectives concerning drug therapy in this open field.

Concepts: Immune system, Pharmacology, Clinical trial, Cancer, The Canon of Medicine, Therapy, Classification of Pharmaco-Therapeutic Referrals, Clinical trial protocol

139

Although a vaccine against hepatitis B virus (HBV) has been available since 1982, the prevalence of adults with chronic HBV infection in sub-Saharan Africa and East Asia is still estimated at 5-10%. A high rate of chronic infections is also found in the Amazon and the southern parts of eastern and central Europe. In the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent, the prevalence is 2-5%. Less than 1% of the population of Western Europe and North America is chronically infected. Given the high prevalence of infections (such as hepatitis) among inmates, prison is considered a reservoir for facilitating such infections. Based on these premises, this current review examines and discusses emerging trends in the epidemiology of HBV infection, with particular attention to HBV infection in prison. The hepatitis B surface antigen (HBsAg) prevalence in prisoners in west and central Africa is very high (23.5%). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has highlighted the importance of HBV blood screening and subsequent anti-HBV vaccination in the prison population. The vaccination was recommended for all inmates, representing an opportunity to prevent HBV infection in a high-risk population. In these subjects, an accelerated hepatitis B immunisation schedule may result in rapid seroconversion for early short-term protection. Therefore, it is necessary to seek collaboration among public health officials, clinicians and correctional authorities to implement a vaccination programme.

Concepts: Immune system, Disease, North Africa, Middle East, Europe, Hepatitis B, Asia, Central Asia

0

Background and Aims: Nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is the most rapidly growing indication for liver transplantation (LT) in the United States and is on a trajectory to become the leading indication for LT in the next decade. We aimed to study the trends in NASH-related LT among persons born between 1945 and 1965, the baby boomer (BB) generation. Methods: We performed a retrospective cohort analysis using population-based data from the United Network for Organ Sharing/Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network registry from 2004-2015 to evaluate the birth cohort-specific trends in liver transplant waitlist registrations and liver transplant surgeries in patients with NASH. We stratified our study population into three birth cohorts: 1) birth before 1945, 2) birth between 1945 and 1965, and 3) birth after 1965. Results: The overall rates of NASH-related waitlist registrations and liver transplant surgeries steadily increased from 2004 to 2015 and were reflective of a sharp rise noted in the NASH BB sub-group. From 2004 to 2015, the proportion of BB patients with NASH added to LT waitlist demonstrated an incremental growth, 60.6% in 2004 versus 83.2% in 2015 (p < 0.01). Among the liver transplant recipients with NASH, the proportion represented by the BB cohort increased from 56.3% in 2004 to 80.0% in 2015 (p < 0.01). Conclusions: We report rising rates of waitlist registration and LT for the indication of NASH. More importantly, the BB sub-cohort was mainly responsible for these alarming trends.

Concepts: Cohort study, United States, Cirrhosis, Liver, Organ transplant, Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, Baby boomer

0

Background and Aims: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) cirrhosis is the leading indication for liver transplantation in the United States and recurrent HCV following liver transplantation is a major cause of allograft loss and mortality. Liver biopsies are commonly used to identify recurrent HCV and determine the need for antiviral therapy. The introduction of direct-acting antiviral agents (DAAs) has changed the management of recurrent HCV infection. This study aimed to describe the role of liver biopsies in liver transplant recipients with HCV after the introduction of DAAs. Methods: A retrospective analysis was performed looking at the rate of liver biopsies post-liver transplantation for HCV. The analysis included 475 adult liver transplants for hepatitis C performed at the University of California, Los Angeles from January 1, 2006 to October 1, 2015. Patients were divided into two eras, pre- and post-introduction of DAAs on December 1, 2013. Results: In the era before the introduction of DAAs, the percentage of patients biopsied was significantly higher compared to the era after the introduction of DAAs (56.1% vs. 26.9%, p < 0.001). Conclusions: The introduction of DAAs has changed the management of liver biopsy following liver transplantation and the management of recurrent HCV. Given that DAAs are well tolerated and have high efficacy, liver biopsies are no longer routinely used to justify the use antiviral therapy following liver transplantation.

Concepts: Cirrhosis, Liver, Hepatocellular carcinoma, Hepatology, Organ transplant, Hepatitis C, Hepatitis B, Surgical procedures

0

Background and Aims: A visual analogue score (VAS), based on application of a visual analogue scale, has been widely used to assess pruritus in clinical studies of patients with cholestatic liver disease. A VAS is a numerical score of the severity of the perception of pruritus, and, hence, is inherently subjective. The objective of this study was to assess the reliability of a VAS as an index of pruritus in cholestatic patients. Methods: In 8 patients with chronic pruritus due to primary biliary cholangitis, values for a VAS of pruritus were compared with corresponding measurements of scratching activity, which were generated by a monitoring system specifically designed to quantitate this activity. The relationship between individual values for the VAS and corresponding values for scratching activity during a specific interval immediately preceding the recording of the VAS was examined by determining the Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient. Results: The mean Spearman’s rank correlation coefficient between individual values for the VAS and corresponding mean values for scratching activity was 0.072; the range of these coefficients was -0.04 to 0.26. A VAS of pruritus is an unreliable index of scratching activity, and, hence, of the pathophysiological process responsible for the pruritus of cholestasis. Conclusions: It is concluded that the use of a VAS as a primary quantitative endpoint in trials of the efficacy of potential therapies for the pruritus of cholestasis may be inappropriate.

Concepts: Spearman's rank correlation coefficient

0

Background and Aims: Both alcoholic drinks and high sugar-containing soft drinks cause major health problems worldwide. Oral administration of OS and M1 soy-derived extracts has been shown to alleviate liver injury in animal models. The aim of the present study was to determine the liver- and sugar-protective effect of OS and M1 soy-derived extracts when added to alcohol and sugar-enriched drinks. Methods: Mice were treated with alcohol or high sugar-containing drinks, with and without administration of a combination of OS and M1 soy extracts. Mice were observed for the effects on liver injury, glucose metabolism, and the immune system. Results: Co-administration of the soy extracts OS and M1 significantly alleviated the liver injury induced by acute alcohol, as evidenced by decreased liver enzymes. These beneficial effects were associated with promotion of subsets of regulatory T lymphocytes and with a trend towards a pro-inflammatory to an anti-inflammatory cytokine shift. Co-administration of OS M1 soy extracts with sugar-sweetened beverages significantly alleviated the increases in serum sugar levels. Conclusions: OS and M1 extracts exert a synergistic hepato- and glucose-protective effect in models of alcohol-induced liver damage and soft drinks-associated increases in serum glucose. These extracts may provide a solution to the two pressing health problems.

Concepts: Immune system, Alcohol, Enzyme, Glucose, Liver, Carbohydrate, Alcoholic beverage, Kefir

0

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is commonly diagnosed in obese subjects; however, it is not rare among lean individuals. Given the absence of traditional risk factors, it tends to remain under-recognised. The metabolic profiles of lean NAFLD patients are frequently comparable to those of obese NAFLD patients. Though results from several studies have been mixed, it has been generally revealed that lean subjects with NAFLD have minor insulin resistance compared to that in obese NAFLD. Several genetic variants are associated with NAFLD without insulin resistance. Some data suggest that the prevalence of steatohepatitis and advanced fibrosis do not differ significantly between lean and obese NAFLD; however, the former tend to have less severe disease at presentation. The underlying pathophysiology of lean NAFLD may be quite different. Genetic predispositions, fructose- and cholesterol-rich diet, visceral adiposity and dyslipidaemia have potential roles in the pathogenic underpinnings. Lean NAFLD may pose a risk for metabolic disturbances, cardiovascular morbidity or overall mortality. Secondary causes of hepatic steatosis are also needed to be ruled out in lean subjects with NAFLD. The effectiveness of various treatment modalities, such as exercise and pharmacotherapy, on lean NAFLD is not known. Weight loss is expected to help lean NAFLD patients who have visceral obesity. Further investigation is needed for many aspects of lean NAFLD, including mechanistic pathogenesis, risk assessment, natural history and therapeutic approach.

Concepts: Cancer, Nutrition, Obesity, Metabolic syndrome, Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, Fatty liver, Steatosis, Steatohepatitis

0

Liver transplantation (LT) has become standard of care in patients with non-resectable early stage hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) in liver cirrhosis. Currently, patient selection for LT is strictly based on tumor size and number, provided by the Milan criteria. This may, however, exclude patients with advanced tumor load but favourable biology from a possibly curative treatment option. It became clear in recent years that biological tumor viability rather than tumor macromorphology determines posttransplant outcome. In particular, microvascular invasion and poor grading reflect tumor aggressiveness and promote the risk of tumor relapse. Pretransplant biopsy is not applicable due to tumor heterogeneity and risk of tumor cell seeding. (18)F-fludeoxyglucose ((18)F-FDG) positron emission tomography (PET), an established nuclear imaging device in oncology, was demonstrated to non-invasively correlate with unfavorable histopathologic features. Currently, there is an increasing amount of evidence that (18)F-FDG-PET is very useful for identifying eligible liver transplant patients with HCC beyond standard criteria but less aggressive tumor properties. In order to safely expand the HCC selection criteria and the pool of eligible liver recipients, tumor evaluation with (18)F-FDG-PET should be implemented in pretransplant decision process.

Concepts: Cancer, Oncology, Positron emission tomography, Cirrhosis, Liver, Hepatocellular carcinoma, Hepatology, Liver transplantation

0

Infections account for significant morbidity and mortality in liver cirrhosis and most are related to the gut microbiome. Fecal dysbiosis, characterized by an overgrowth of potentially pathogenic bacteria and a decrease in autochthonous non-pathogenic bacteria, becomes prominent with the progression of liver cirrhosis. In cirrhotic patients, disruption of the intestinal barrier causes intestinal hyperpermeability (i.e. leaky gut), which is closely related to gut dysmotility, dysbiosis and small intestinal bacterial overgrowth and may induce pathological bacterial translocation. Although the involved microbial taxa are somewhat different between the cirrhotic patients from the East and the West, the common manifestation of a shortage of bacteria that contribute to the production of short-chain fatty acids and secondary bile acids may facilitate intestinal inflammation, leaky gut and gut dysbiosis. Translocated endotoxin and bacterial DNA are capable of provoking potent inflammation and affecting the metabolic and hemodynamic systems, which may ultimately enhance the progression of liver cirrhosis and its various complications, such as hepatic encephalopathy (HE), variceal bleeding, infection and renal disturbances. Among studies on the microbiome-based therapeutics, findings of probiotic effects on HE have been contradictory in spite of several supportive results. However, the effects of synbiotics and prebiotics are substantially documented. The background of their effectiveness should be evaluated again in relation to the cirrhosis-related changes in gut microbiome and their metabolic effects. Strict indications for the antibiotic rifaximin remain unestablished, although its effect is promising, improving HE and other complications with little influence on microbial populations. The final goal of microbiome-based therapeutics is to adjust the gut-liver axis to the maximal benefit of cirrhotic patients, with the aid of evolving metagenomic and metabolomic analyses.

Concepts: Bacteria, Ammonia, Microbiology, Cirrhosis, Liver, Bile, Pathogenic bacteria, Hepatic encephalopathy