Scientists in Japan have designed artificial molecules that when used with rats successfully reversed liver cirrhosis, a serious chronic disease in humans that until now can only be cured by transplants.
Cirrhosis is the hardening or scarring of the liver, and is caused by factors such as heavy drinking and Hepatitis B and C. The disease is especially serious in parts of Asia, including China.
Cirrhosis occurs when a class of liver cells starts producing collagen, a fibrous material that toughens skin and tendons. Such damage cannot be reversed although steps can be taken to prevent further damage. In advanced cases, transplants are the only way out.
In the journal Nature Biotechnology, the researchers said they designed molecules that can block collagen production by liver “stellate cells,” which are also known to absorb vitamin A.
The scientists then loaded the molecules into carriers that were coated with vitamin A, which tricked the stellate cells into absorbing the molecules.
“By packaging the (molecules) in carriers coated with vitamin A, they tricked the stellate cells into letting in the inhibitor, which shut down collagen secretion,” the researchers wrote.