Background: Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is among the most common causes of chronic liver disease. NAFLD includes a spectrum of clinicopathologic syndromes that includes non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) that has potential for progression. The pathogenesis of NASH is poorly characterized. Aim: This study was designed to identify differences in hepatic gene expression in patients with NASH and to relate such differences to their clinical characteristics. Design: Consecutive patients undergoing bariatric surgery were prospectively recruited. Extensive clinical data and two liver biopsy specimens were obtained at the time of enrollment. A single hepatopathologist reviewed and classified the liver biopsies. Patients with excessive alcohol use and other causes of liver disease were excluded. A group of 29 NASH patients, 12 with steatosis alone, seven obese controls and six non-obese controls were selected for further investigation. Customized cDNA microarrays containing 5220 relevant genes were designed specifically for this study. Microarray experiments were run in triplicate for each sample and a selected group of genes were confirmed using real-time PCR. Outcome measure: Differential hepatic gene expressions in patients with NASH as compared with controls. Results: Thirty-four genes with significant differential expression were identified in patients with NASH when compared with non-obese controls. Moreover, 19 of these genes showed no significant expression differences in obese vs. non-obese controls, suggesting a stronger association of these genes to NASH. Conclusions: Several differentially expressed genes in patients with NASH are related to lipid metabolism and extracellular matrix remodeling. Additionally, genes related to liver regeneration, apoptosis, and the detoxification process were differentially expressed. These findings may help clarify the molecular pathogenesis of NASH and identify potential targets for therapeutic intervention. © Blackwell Munksgaard 2005.
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