technique that “silences,” or turns off, genes shows promise as a
potential new treatment for liver fibrosis — the disease that leads to
cirrhosis — scientists in Tennessee are reporting. Their study is
scheduled for the June 1 issue of ACS’ Molecular Pharmaceutics, a bi-monthly journal. Cirrhosis is the 12th leading cause of death in the United States.
Mahato and colleagues note that fibrosis involves build-up of scar
tissue in the liver from chronic liver damage caused by hepatitis,
alcohol abuse, toxins, or other factors. Advanced fibrosis can lead to
cirrhosis, a condition in which the liver becomes so severely damaged
that patients may require a transplant. There is no effective
treatment, and patients urgently need new medications. Scientists
believe one may emerge from the fascinating discovery that a protein
called TGF-beta 1 triggers liver inflammation and that blocking the
protein may help.
researchers designed 10 chemically synthesized substances, termed
siRNAs, with the ability to block or “silence” the TGF-beta 1 gene in
the liver. When put into rat liver cells, the “gene silencers"
decreased levels of type 1 collagen whose excessive production leads to
fibrosis, as well as two other substances known to trigger liver
inflammation, by almost 50 percent. The results suggest that gene
silencing may be “an efficient and more specific approach for therapy
of liver fibrosis,” the report states.
— News release courtesy of American Chemical Society