Could antioxidants be the "magic pill" for cirrhosis-related complications? A pathophysiological appraisal

Stelios F Assimakopoulos, Charalambos Gogos, Chrisoula Labropoulou-Karatza
Medical Hypotheses 2011, 77 (3): 419-23
Patients with liver cirrhosis are prone to serious complications by almost all systems, leading to high morbidity rates and even death. Although the functional and structural derangement of diverse vital organs developed in the course of advanced liver disease is the result of one entity (cirrhosis) there are various treatment modalities for each system's complications, which are often ineffective. Identification of the link which connects the complications of cirrhosis from diverse systems might lead to a global, simple and more effective treatment approach for patients with cirrhosis. Accumulating evidence from experimental and clinical studies suggests that intestinal barrier dysfunction and subsequent gut-derived endotoxemia represent an important common pathogenetic mechanism in the development of diverse complications of cirrhosis. Intestinal oxidative stress seems to be a pivotal factor of gut barrier dysfunction in cirrhosis through promotion of enterocyte apoptosis, modulation of intestinal tight junctions and impairment of intestinal brush border function. In parallel, oxidative stress plays a fundamental role in the aggravation of liver injury and in the structural and/or functional derangements of diverse organs complicating the course of cirrhosis. Our hypothesis is that antioxidant treatments could prevent in a global way virtually all cirrhosis-related complications acting in two crucial levels in the pathophysiological cascade of events: (a) in a primary level, which is the gut-liver axis by ameliorating gut-derived endotoxemia, through prevention of intestinal oxidative stress and its associated gut barrier dysfunction, concurrently conferring direct antioxidant protection in the liver tissue and (b) in a secondary level, which refers to the diverse organs whose function is affected by liver cirrhosis, by preventing their oxidant-related structural and functional derangements.

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