New research from the University of Missouri College of Medicine has established a link between Western diets high in fat and sugar and the development of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, the leading cause of chronic liver disease.
The research, conducted in the Roy Blunt NextGen Precision Health building at MU, identified microbial and metabolic factors induced by the Western diet in the development of liver disease, advancing our understanding of the gut-liver axis, and thus the development of nutritional and microbial interventions. to this global health threat.
said the co-principal investigator, Guangfu Li, PhD, DVM, associate professor in the Department of Surgery and Department of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology. “However, the specific bacteria and metabolites, as well as the underlying mechanisms are not yet well understood. This research reveals the how and why.”
There is a close anatomical and functional connection between the gut and the liver via the portal vein. Unhealthy diets alter the gut microbiota, resulting in the production of pathogens that affect the liver. By feeding the mice foods high in fat and sugar, the research team discovered that the mice developed gut bacteria called Blautia producta and fats that cause hepatitis and fibrosis. This, in turn, caused the mice to develop non-alcoholic steatohepatitis or fatty liver disease, with features similar to the disease in humans.
“Fatty liver disease is a global health epidemic,” said Kevin Staveley O’Carroll, MD, PhD, associate professor of surgery, one of the principal investigators. “Not only has it become a leading cause of liver cancer and cirrhosis, but many patients I see with other cancers have fatty liver disease and don’t even know it. This often makes it impossible for them to undergo potentially curative surgery for other cancers.”
As part of this study, the researchers tested treating mice with an antibiotic cocktail administered via their drinking water. They found that antibiotic treatment reduced liver inflammation and fat buildup, which led to less fatty liver disease. These results indicate that antibiotic-induced changes in the gut microbiota can suppress inflammatory responses and liver fibrosis.
Lee and Staveley O’Carroll and Associate Principal Investigator Fellow R. Scott Rector, Ph.D., Director of NextGen Precision Health Building and Senior Associate Dean for Research – part of NextGen Precision Health, an initiative to expand collaboration in the field of personalized health care and translate multidisciplinary research for the benefit of society. The team recently received a $1.2 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to fund this ongoing research into the relationship between gut bacteria and liver disease.