Liver disease is a "huge global health problem" with an estimated 1.5 billion people worldwide affectedand no treatment has worked yet, Dr. Prakash Ramachandran writes in the Conversation.
That's because different factors are at play in different stages of the disease, which can lead to cirrhosis, cancer, and liver failure.
One of the biggest factors is fibrosis, which is caused by damage to the liver's epithelial cells.
It can take years for the disease to develop, and no treatment has worked yet.
But Ramachandran and his team at the University of Edinburgh are reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that they've found a way to map out fibrosis in a way that could lead to new treatments.
They're calling it Liver Cell Analysis, or LiCA, which allows them to take a patient's liver biopsy and blood samples and "build up a high-resolution profile of changes in cells, genes, and proteins in different types of liver disease and at different stages of disease progression," as Ramachandran puts it.
"This means we can nail down which pathways in the liver are associated with different clinical outcomes in a way others cannot."
The team has already started a clinical trial of LiCA in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver
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