Novel drug targets for treating fatty liver disease and liver cancer identified

Published: 2017-08-23


The quest for effective treatment against liver cancer and fatty liver disease, has made huge progress as a study led by SciLifeLab Fellow Adil Mardinoglu (KTH) has identified a number of drug targets that can be used in the development of new efficient treatment strategies with minimum side effects. The results were published in Molecular Systems Biology, an EMBO Press Journal. 

Biological networks generated for 46 major human tissues were used in order to identify the liver-specific gene targets. Hepatic steatosis is defined as the excessive accumulation of fat in the liver and it is the key characteristic of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. It is one of the most common chronic liver problems in the world and affects almost 30 percent of the adult population. The disease is the consequence of obesity, diabetes, or excessive alcohol intake and can lead to e.g. cirrhosis, liver cancer and even hepatic failure. There are few treatments, despite an urgent need.

“We mapped the metabolic changes caused by accumulated fat in liver cells, and combined this data with an analysis of biological networks of liver and other human tissues. Doing so enabled us to identify the liver-specific drug targets whose inhibition will not cause any side effect to other human tissues”, says Adil Mardinoglu.

The study’s network modeling approach relied on data from the Sweden-based Human Protein Atlas project and The Genotype-Tissue Expression (GTEx) project consortia. It can be used in the identification of drug targets and eventually in the development of efficient strategies for treating a number of chronic liver diseases.

Read the press release from KTH Royal Institute of Technology