Alcoholic liver disease: pathogenesis and new targets for therapy

José Altamirano, Ramón Bataller
Nature Reviews. Gastroenterology & Hepatology 2011, 8 (9): 491-501
Alcoholic liver disease (ALD) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality worldwide. The spectrum of disease ranges from fatty liver to hepatic inflammation, necrosis, progressive fibrosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. In developed countries, ALD is a major cause of end-stage liver disease that requires transplantation. The most effective therapy for ALD is alcohol abstinence. However, for patients with severe forms of ALD (that is, alcoholic hepatitis) and for those who do not achieve abstinence from alcohol, targeted therapies are urgently needed. The development of new drugs for ALD is hampered by the scarcity of studies and the drawbacks of existing animal models, which do not reflect all the features of the human disease. However, translational research using liver samples from patients with ALD has identified new potential therapeutic targets, such as CXC chemokines, osteopontin and tumor necrosis factor receptor superfamily member 12A. The pathogenetic roles of these targets, however, remain to be confirmed in animal models. This Review summarizes the epidemiology, natural history, risk factors and current knowledge of the pathogenetic mechanisms of ALD. In addition, this article provides a detailed description of the findings of these translational studies and of the animal models used to study ALD.

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