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Posts tagged ‘Liver’

Coffee and tea may protect your liver

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Your morning cup of coffee or tea may do more than just perk you up.

IN a study announced last week, an international team of researchers led by Duke University School of Medicine in North Carolina suggests that increased caffeine intake may reduce fatty liver in people with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).

Worldwide, 70% of people diagnosed with diabetes and obesity have NAFLD, the major cause of fatty liver not due to excessive alcohol consumption, the researchers said.

Currently, there are no effective treatments for NAFLD except diet and exercise.

Using cell culture and mouse models, head researcher Dr Paul Yen and his team found that caffeine stimulated the metabolisation of lipids stored in liver cells and decreased the fatty liver of mice that were fed a high-fat diet.

According to the findings, researchers said that the equivalent caffeine intake of four cups of coffee or tea a day may be beneficial in preventing and protecting against the progression of NAFLD in humans.

The findings appear online and will be published in the September issue of the journalHepatology.

“This is the first detailed study of the mechanism for caffeine action on lipids in liver and the results are very interesting,” Yen said. “Coffee and tea are so commonly consumed and the notion that they may be therapeutic, especially since they have a reputation for being ‘bad’ for health, is especially enlightening.”

Prior research has already associated caffeine with decreased risk of liver disease and reduced fibrosis in patients with chronic liver disease. Last year, a separate study published in the same journal found that drinking coffee reduces the risk of advanced fibrosis in those NAFLD. – AFP Relaxnews

via Coffee and tea may protect your liver – Nutrition | The Star Online.

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Love your liver

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Dr Syed … Patients diagnosed with hepatitis B and C need to come for their annual check-ups to catch signs of liver damage in the early stages. – LOW LAY PHON/The Star

 

Many people are unaware that being diagnosed with hepatitis B and C is a lifelong sentence.

 

MANY ancient civilisations rightfully believed that the liver is one of the most crucial organs in our body.

Although their understanding was not based in scientific fact – for example, the Babylonians, Estrucans, Romans and Greeks believed that the liver was the seat of all emotions and the organ closest to divinity, while in traditional Chinese medicine, it purportedly helps to regulate the flow of qi and blood in the body, and governs anger – the liver is indeed vital to our existence.

Like the heart, we cannot function without our liver.

It is one of the most hardworking organs in our body, performing over 500 different functions, including processing and storing nutrients, manufacturing proteins and hormones, neutralising toxins, breaking down drugs and removing waste from our body.

It is the second largest organ in the body after the skin, and the only one that has significant regenerative capabilities, being able to grow back to full size from as little as a quarter of its cells.

However, even this ability cannot overcome the insidious presence of the two hepatitis viruses that cause chronic infection in the liver.

These viruses work silently – often residing in the infected person’s body quietly, slowly damaging the liver without causing any outward signs of illness, until it is too late.

Passed on through bodily fluids, they can be contracted through sex, the sharing or reuse of unsterilised sharp objects like needles, razors, and even earrings, from mother to child in the womb, and basically, any activity that can result in the transference of blood, semen, vaginal fluid and saliva directly from the infected person to someone else.

The virus usually gains access into the body via the bloodstream through minor wounds, like nicks or cuts, that one may not even notice.

But because these viruses rarely cause any specific symptoms during the acute stage, people are unaware that they have been infected, and may go on to infect other people unknowingly.

This is why, according to consultant hepatologist Dr Syed Mohd Redha Syed Nasir, the most important form of transmission is perinatal or early childhood transmission.

He explains: “If someone in the family has hepatitis B, it is likely that someone else will have it too; that’s why we have to screen everyone in the house.”

This is especially in the case of children whose immune systems have not completely matured yet.

As a rule, hepatitis is usually only picked up upon screening, or when patients have already developed complications from the disease.

A chronic problem

Despite being considered a major global health threat – it is one of only four diseases that the World Health Organisation (WHO) considers crucial enough to mark with an international World Day, the awareness of hepatitis is still disturbingly low among the general population.

This infectious disease, which causes inflammation of the liver, is caused by five viruses: hepatitis A, B, C, D and E.

Of these, hepatitis B and C are the most worrisome as they can become chronic infections, which may result in liver cirrhosis (also known in layman’s terms as scarring or hardening) and liver cancer. (See Acute infections for more information on the three other viruses.)

These two viruses are also the main focus of the World Hepatitis Day campaign.

According to the World Hepatitis Alliance website, “The long-term objective of the campaign is to prevent new infections and to deliver real improvements in health outcomes for people living with hepatitis B and C.”

In Malaysia, hepatitis B is an important enough health concern that the vaccine is part of the compulsory national immunisation programme for all babies.

Despite that, Dr Syed says that around 5% of the population still has hepatitis B.

There is no vaccine for hepatitis C; neither is there any local data on the spread of hepatitis C or the three other hepatitis viruses in the country, according to him.

“In our setting, from my experience, we often encounter patients, who are diagnosed to have hepatitis B in particular, many years ago.

“Little do they realise that hepatitis B is a chronic infection that has the potential to cause long-term damage to the liver,” he says.

The doctor, who was previously with the national referral centre for liver diseases at Hospital Selayang and is now in private practice, adds that this often results in the patient being unaware of the importance of long-term follow-up, and creates the tendency for them to skip their annual check-ups.

“For these patients, you can’t be sure whether their infection will become active again, or develop into liver cancer.

“A few years down the road, they will come and you discover they have liver cirrhosis, and it is already a lost battle.”

He says that most patients tend to come in when they already have decompensated liver cirrhosis, which presents with abdominal swelling, with or without accompanying leg swelling, and either vomiting or passing motion with blood.

Some may also come in with a yellowish complexion (jaundice), episodes of losing awareness of their surroundings (hepatic encephalopathy), and other bacterial infections, as the liver is part of the immune system.

Too late to treat

While treatment is available for both hepatitis B and C, Dr Syed cautions that patients need to be carefully evaluated before the decision to start treatment is made.

This evaluation is to determine the degree of viral activity, as well as the level of liver damage. Both these factors need to be carefully balanced in order for treatment to be fully effective.

“When we give treatment, we must make sure it is indicated, because it is for life. For example, if a patient is 25 years old, he has to take it for the next 40 to 50 years (until he dies),” he says.

The development of resistance to the antiviral medication given for the disease is also another reason why doctors need to make the decision to treat judiciously.

Aside from oral antiviral drugs, patients may also be treated with interferon injections, which are typically given for the period of one year.

Dr Syed explains: “Interferon modulates your immune system, as well as clears the virus, so there is an added effect. After one year, your immune system will be able to clear the virus on its own.”

According to studies, the percentage of patients on interferon in which the virus can no longer be detected increases from 3-5% in the first year to 12% five years after completing their treatment.

However, he adds that this treatment is often not an option for most Malaysian patients, as the damage to the liver is already too advanced by the time they go see the doctor.

Unfortunately, the reality of the situation in Malaysia is that most patients with chronic hepatitis only see the doctor when their condition is so advanced that they are already well on the way to requiring a liver transplant.

via Love your liver – Health | The Star Online.

BBC News – Tiny stem-cell livers grown in laboratory


The liver breaks down toxins

Tiny functioning human livers have been grown from stem cells in the laboratory by scientists in Japan.

They said they were “gobsmacked” when liver buds, the earliest stage of the organ’s development, formed spontaneously.

The team, reporting their findings in Nature, hope that transplanting thousands of liver buds could reverse liver failure.

Experts welcomed the findings, describing them as “exciting”.

Scientists around the world are trying to grow organs in the lab to overcome a shortage of organ donors.

Some patients already have bladders made from their own cells, but dense solid organs such as the liver and kidneys are much harder to produce.

Grow your own

The team at the Yokohama City University were reproducing the earliest stages of liver development – similar to that in an embryo.

They had mixed three types of cells – two types of stem cells and material taken from the umbilical cord.

Unexpectedly, the cells began to organise themselves and appeared to curl up to form a liver bud.

These buds were transplanted into mice, where they hooked themselves up with the blood supply and began to function as little livers.

The transplants increased the lifespan of mice with liver failure.

Prof Takanori Takebe said: “We just simply mixed three cell types and found that they unexpectedly self-organise to form a three-dimensional liver bud – this is a rudimentary liver.

“And finally we proved that liver bud transplantation could offer therapeutic potential against liver failure.”

He told the BBC that he was “completely gobsmacked” and “absolutely surprised” when he first witnessed the buds forming.

Treatment hope

It is thought that other organs such as the pancreas, kidneys and even the lungs could be developed in the same way. However, turning this into a treatment is still a distant prospect.

The buds are 4-5mm in length but the researchers say they would need to develop buds that are much smaller and could be injected into the blood.

The buds would not grow to be a whole new liver, but would embed themselves in the failing one and restore it.

Dr Varuna Aluvihare, a liver transplant physician at King’s College Hospital in London, told BBC News: “This a great piece of work and as a proof of concept, very interesting.

“The real highlight is that such simple mixtures of cells can differentiate and organise themselves into highly complex tissue structures that function well in an animal model.”

He said the liver was very damaged in chronic liver disease so there were still questions about where the buds were transplanted and how they would function.

The risk of a tumour developing after the transplant would also need to be assessed.

Dr Dusko Ilic, a stem cell scientist at King’s College London, said: “The strategy is very promising, and represents a huge step forward.

“Although the promise of an off-the-shelf-liver seems much closer than one could hope even a year ago, the paper is only a proof of concept. There is much unknown and it will take years before it could be applied in regenerative medicine.”

Prof Chris Mason, the chair of regenerative medicine at University College London, said there might be more immediate benefits for drug testing.

New medicines can be toxic to the human liver in a way which does not show up in animal tests. He said using liver buds might be a better way to test for toxicity.

Analysis

This is a significant advance for the field of regenerative medicine.

It might seem like science fiction but there are already people walking around today with organs made from stem cells.

A major breakthrough came in 2006 when bladders made from patients’ own cells were implanted. Grown windpipes have also been transplanted.

In regenerative medicine there are four levels of complexity: flat structures such as skin; tubes such as blood vessels; hollow organs such as the bladder; and solid organs such as the kidney, heart and liver.

The last group is the most difficult as they are complex organs containing many types of tissue.

This is a new approach to growing solid organs and is yet another window on what could be the future of organ transplants.

via BBC News – Tiny stem-cell livers grown in laboratory.

‘Majority of liver cancer patients are men’

Kuala Terengganu: Majority of the 2.5 million Malaysians detected with liver cancer are men, Malaysian Liver Foundation president, Tan Sri Dr Mohd Ismail Merican said today.

He said Sabah and Sarawak topped the list for hepatitis B in the country and attributed it to, among others, the influx of foreigners in both the states.
Kelantan, he said, recorded the highest number of cases for hepatitis A.

“Hepatitis B can be transmitted from an infected mother to her child during the birthing process, sharing of drug injection needles or for blood transfusion,” he added.

He was speaking to reporters after the opening of a hepatitis awareness campaign by the Sultanah of Terengganu, Sultanah Nur Zahirah, at Universiti Malaysia Terengganu (UMT) here today.

Ismail said the foundation was tracing hepatitis patients in the country to provide them with necessary assistance and counselling.

Read more: NST

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