Intestinal bacteria to fight deadly liver disease

​The research Consortium GALAXY which involves among others Steno Diabetes Center and University of Southern Denmark has just received 6.3 million € from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme to combat cirrhosis of the liver, which has a lower survival rate than several types of cancer.

Liver cirrhosis accounts for 1.8% of all deaths in Europe causing around 170,000 deaths per year. Europe is the heaviest drinking region in the world and alcohol is the main cause of liver disease, including cirrhosis. Survival rates for liver disease have not shown the same improvement in recent years as seen for many types of diseases, but the research group GALAXY, led by Odense University Hospital and which also includes Steno Diabetes Center, is about to change that.

The research group has just received 47 million kroner from the EU and the Metabolomics lab at Steno Diabetes Center will play an important role in the project.

“We’ll be analysing the samples from patients and we’re looking forward to work with the other partners in the project”, says professor Matej Orêsic who heads up the Metabolomics area at Steno Diabetes Center.

People vary in their sensitivity to alcohol. About 5-10% of heavy drinkers get cirrhosis of the liver. Other people will also develop the disease even at modest drinking levels, but we cannot predict who that will be. This means that many patients are diagnosed so late that they already have irreparable damage to their livers. GALAXY is a 6 years programme.

The answer is expected to be related to the bacteria living in the intestine. The research group's hypothesis is that these bacteria interact with the liver to either protect it or to promote the formation of scar tissue in the liver.

Responsible editor