First degree relatives of NAFLD patients at risk of liver disease: Research

Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), an umbrella term for a range of liver conditions that affect people who consume little or no alcohol, affects about a quarter of the general population globally. Cirrhosis, liver cancer, and liver failure can result from NAFLD.

In a recent study, scientists at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine found that first-degree relatives of people with NAFLD who have advanced fibrosis are 15 percent more likely to develop the disease themselves.

The findings highlight the value of early screening of both siblings and offspring of NAFLD patients. They were published in the online edition of the Journal of Clinical Investigation.

“Until now, first-degree relatives who accompanied their loved ones with liver disease for medical treatment did not know that they were at higher risk of developing advanced fibrosis,” said Rohit Loomba, MD, the study’s first author, a professor in the division. of Gastroenterology at UC San Diego School of Medicine and director of hepatology at UC San Diego Health.

“Liver disease is a silent killer. Most people don’t know they have a liver problem until it’s advanced and they develop cirrhosis because there are no obvious symptoms.”

According to Loomba, the study’s findings could play a key role in early detection.

“Our goal and mission is to identify patients who have more advanced liver problems earlier and non-invasively to prevent progression to cirrhosis,” said Loomba, director of the UC San Diego School of Medicine’s NAFLD Research Center.

The complex metabolic disease NAFLD has both environmental and genetic risk factors. Recent research has shown that advanced fibrosis can cluster within the same families and that NAFLD and NAFLD-associated liver fibrosis are inherited.

Nearly 400 first-degree relatives from two separate cohorts in the United States and Finland participated in the study. Magnetic resonance elastography and other noninvasive imaging modalities have been used to assess liver fibrosis.

The findings gave scientists the data they need to recommend routine testing for advanced fibrosis among first-degree relatives of patients with cirrhosis or advanced fibrosis.

“Siblings and offspring of patients should be evaluated around age 40 or 50,” Loomba said. “Our findings could change the standard of care for this high-risk population.”

Loomba added that educating first-degree relatives about risk factors, including excessive alcohol consumption, weight gain and a sedentary lifestyle, are also essential.

“Many genes related to liver disease change depending on a person’s lifestyle and what they eat. This means that first-degree relatives can help prevent the development of advanced fibrosis if they are aware of the risk and are willing to make lifestyle changes,” said Loomba. “Patients should be informed about the risk they have, because then they are more likely to change their behavior and lifestyle.”

Looking ahead, Loomba said the next step will be to determine the genetic factors within families that increase the risk of NAFLD in order to identify and treat patients earlier.

(With inputs from ANI)

Disclaimer: This post was automatically published from an agency feed without any text changes and has not been reviewed by an editor

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