Revolutionary research on liver disease released

Newcastle University is a world leader for research into the ageing population

25th April 2016

Newcastle University scientists have developed a genetic blood test that diagnoses scarring in the liver.

This breakthrough development is the first time an epigenetic signature in blood has been discovered, which helps diagnose the severity of fibrosis for people with Non-alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD).

The team of Newcastle University scientists began by testing 26 patients with NAFLD to develop the blood analysis. The test detected chemical changes on tiny amounts of ‘cell-free’ DNA released into the blood when liver cells are injured. Changes in DNA methylation at genes such as PPAR, which control scar formation, are then used to arrange patients by fibrosis severity.

This test opens up a world of possibilities for diagnosing liver problems early on which could lead to earlier diagnosis of liver problems for thousands of people.

The research was completed as part of Newcastle University’s response to the opportunities presented by an ageing population and it was made possible through Newcastle Academic Health Partners, which is a partnership between Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Northumberland NHS Foundation Trust, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle University.

The research was conducted as part of Dr Timothy Hardy’s Phd Porject. He is a hepatology registrar within Newcastle Hospitals and a medical research clinical research training fellow at the University.

To further cement these findings, the tests must be conducted again on a larger sample of patients to ensure their validity. But at the minute, the development has shown Newcastle University to be at the cutting edge of medical progression.

Final year Biomedical Sciences student Ben Allison told The Courier “It’s a breakthrough that could eliminate the need for an invasive biopsy and detect liver scarring earlier even in ‘at risk’ asymptomatic patients’

Fourth year Newcastle University student Helen Daly told The Courier “I feel really proud to be part of a university that is constantly pushing boundaries and making life-changing discoveries”

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