(Boston) – Feb. 24, 2015 – Boston Medical Center (BMC) has received a $1.5 million grant to study non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. The grant, awarded by the National Institutes of Health’s National Institutes of Diabetes and Digestive Kidney Diseases, will allow researchers to investigate the molecular mechanisms involved with this common, chronic metabolic disease and to identify novel treatments for the disease.
Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which affects more the 71 million Americans, or 25% of adults, develops when excessive amounts of fat build up in liver cells. The disease is most common among those who are overweight or obese or those with diabetes. While this disease does not have symptoms, hepatic steatosis is an early and reversible stage of NAFLD. If not treated, it can advance to irreversible cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma, which has limited effective therapies.
Using in vitro and in vivo experimental models, the researchers will work to determine how retinoic acid, a major metabolite of vitamin A, and its nuclear receptor maintain lipid homeostasis and slow down the progression of NAFLD.
“This research could provide the rationale for the development of a vitamin A-based intervention for NAFLD, which could have a tremendous impact on the millions of Americans who have this disease,” said Mengwei Zang, MD, PhD, associate professor of medicine in the department of medicine and Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute at Boston University School of Medicine and investigator at BMC who serves as principle investigator on this grant.
This research is funded in part by the NIH NIDDK under notice of grant award number 1R01DK100603 to Zang.