Steno Diabetes Center partner in pioneering European research project to benefit patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease

Patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) will benefit from a major multi-million euro European research project aimed at developing better diagnostic tests and treatments.

NAFLD is caused by a build-up of fat in the liver cells and the condition is strongly linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes. It is estimated that 20% to 25% of Europe’s population suffer from the condition and at the moment there are no licensed medicines to treat non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Nine leading centres in Europe are part of the project and Steno Diabetes Center leads the work on integrative systems biology and data management.

“Our work includes performing analyses across multiple layers of high-dimensional biological data generated from liver biopsies, serum and stool samples in patients across the progressive stages of NAFLD. We will also perform large-scale metabolomics analyses from liver biopsies and serum samples, aiming to identify metabolic pathways and biomarkers associated with the progression of NAFLD”, says Professor Matej Orešič, Principal Investigator, Systems Medicine at Steno Diabetes Center and continues:

“Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is a condition that is going to be the most common cause for liver transplantation in many countries within a decade, overtaking alcohol-related liver disease and viral hepatitis. By understanding the disease processes better we hope that this study will allow us to develop new diagnostic tests, and enable us to identify new targets for treatment so that we can devise better drugs in the future.”

Largest study in liver disease

The €6 million Elucidating Pathways of Steatohepatitis (EPoS) programme has been funded by the first round of the European Union Horizon 2020 framework for health research and innovation.

This will be the largest ever study of its kind to connect research from across the continent in liver disease, which is hoped, will enable a greater understanding into the genetic and environmental factors linked to the development of the life-threatening illness.

The EPoS consortium comprises investigators based at Newcastle University, University of Cambridge and iXscient in the UK; Institute of Cardiometabolism and Nutrition in Paris (France); Università Degli Studi Di Torino, Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche and the Universita Deli Studi Di Firenze (Italy); University of Helsinki (Finland); Steno Diabetes Center and Nordic Bioscience (Denmark); Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz (Germany).

Fact box

  • Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is one of the biggest public health challenges facing modern times as it affects up to 20% to 25% of the European population.
  • The condition is usually seen in obese or overweight people who are aged around 40 and over, but also in younger people.
  • There are currently no medicines to treat non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Patients are usually given advice to make lifestyle changes such as lose weight and exercise more.
  • Experts estimate that non-alcoholic fatty liver disease will be the most common cause of liver transplantation in many developed countries within

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