By Sofia Velazquez Pimentel
Scientists have discovered an important protein that stops the toxic build-up of cholesterol in the liver. The team hopes this will lead to new treatments for liver diseases.
Researchers at the LMS Metabolism and Gene Regulation group have discovered a significant protein that protects against toxic cholesterol buildup in the liver.
Liver disease is the only major disease where death rates are rising, having increased by 400% in the last 50 years. Making the need for prevention and treatment solutions more pressing than ever.
Scientists explained that many metabolism-associated diseases like liver disease are linked to a process called alternative splicing, an important step between gene transcription and protein production.
Until now, it was not known the exact role of alternative splicing in liver disease, which causes a roadblock in the development of new treatments.
The new study, published in Nature Metabolism, discovered that the protein RBFOX2, a protein known to regulate alternative splicing plays a significant role in protecting against the toxic buildup of cholesterol that can lead to liver disease.
Mice were fed a diet of high fructose (the main ingredient in fizzy drinks) to mimic diet-induced fatty liver disease. Researchers found that the removal of RBFOX2 in mice led to the toxic buildup of cholesterol in the mouse’s liver, which signifies an increased risk of liver disease.
The team were able to revert the build-up of cholesterol by giving mice RNA drugs which partially restored the alternative splicing process by RBFOX2. This alleviated symptoms like liver inflammation.
Liver disease is a dangerous and fast-rising problem, and the researchers hope that these findings will open up doors to making new treatments.
Dr Sijia Yu, co-author of the study said: “Our study revealed new therapeutic targets for metabolism-associated fatty liver disease, the most prevalent non-communicable liver pathology in the world.”
Wherever possible, LMS scientists use cells and cell lines cultured in the laboratory, or computer-based approaches to learn about health and disease. Mice are used only when there is no alternative for a research project that is essential to make the findings needed to develop new prevention and treatment strategies for human and animal diseases.