Study Finding: Improved Mouse Model Simulates Alcoholic Liver Disease
Researchers from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), have developed a new mouse model of alcoholic liver disease (ALD). The model incorporates chronic and binge drinking patterns to more closely approximate ALD in humans than any existing method. A report of the new model appears in the March issue of the journal Nature Protocols.
ALD refers to a broad range of liver injury caused by drinking. About 20–40 percent of heavy drinkers will develop more severe forms of ALD, including alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis. The NIAAA model involves a 10-day feeding of an alcohol-containing liquid diet, followed by a single high-dose feeding of alcohol to approximate binge drinking. This results in marked elevation of fatty liver and enzymes indicating liver injury.
“The NIAAA model represents a significant advance in understanding the progression of alcoholic liver disease, which in severe cases can lead to liver failure and death,” said Kenneth R. Warren, Ph.D., acting director of the NIAAA.
Study Finding: Gut Bacteria May Play a Role in Obesity and Glucose Tolerance
Researchers have found that a stomach bacterium called Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori) may play a role in controlling glucose tolerance and body weight.
The study was partially funded by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of the NIH. Mice infected with certain strains of H. pylori showed less insulin resistance than uninfected mice or other mice infected with a more virulent strain, according to the study, recently published in PLOS ONE.
While H. pylori infection is associated with peptic ulcers and gastritis, it also helps control chronic inflammatory, allergic, or autoimmune diseases. The results suggest that colonization by these H. pylori strains could provide partial protection against some metabolic disorders.
Study Finding: Liver Stem Cells Discovered in Mice
Scientists successfully identified and grew a renewable population of liver stem cells for the first time, a new study reported. Tissues derived from these stem cells slightly boosted liver function when implanted into mice with a liver disorder. The study, funded in part by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, was described in Nature on February 14, 2013.
Scientists have long known that stem cells that have the potential to create more liver cells must exist in the adult liver. But until now, no one had found a way to detect and cultivate liver stem cells. The findings could eventually lead to approaches that help rejuvenate damaged livers in people.
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