AFTER years of drinking excess alcohol, alcoholic cirrhosis can occur. However, researchers at the Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana, USA, may have discovered a protective gene that lowers the risk of developing the disease.
The principal investigator of the study, Prof Suthat Liangpunsakul, explained why this discovery has come at such an important time: “Based on USA data, alcohol-associated liver disease is on the rise in terms of the prevalence and incidents, and it is happening more often in younger patients.”
The team conducted a genome-wide association study that involved >1,700 patients from the USA, Europe, and Australia. Participants were separated into two groups; one group consisting of heavy drinker with no history of liver disease, and another group of heavy drinkers who had liver cirrhosis. DNA samples where contributed by the participants which subsequently isolated for genome analysis.
The presence of the gene Fas Associated Factor Family Member 2 (FAF2) was found to have an impact on alcoholic cirrhosis development and the team now aim to analyse this gene and its relationship to other genes associated with the likelihood of developing alcoholic cirrhosis. It is hoped that by identifying this genetic factor in individuals, targeted therapies could be utilised in a personalised medicine approach.
Lead author of the study Prof Tae-Hwi Schwantes-An summarised the key findings: “There’s this convergence of findings now that are pointing to the genes involved in the lipid droplet organisation pathway, and that seems to be one of the biological reasonings of why certain people get liver disease and why certain people do not.”