With nearly 100 million Americans and counting estimated to have non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine has launched a new research center to help better understand the disease and potentially develop treatments where non exist, according to a UCSD press release

NAFLD, an obesity and gene-related condition, occurs when fat accumulates in liver cells. The condition can progress to nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), a more extreme form of the disease that can result in cirrhosis and liver cancer. NAFLD is also closely linked to diabetes and is currently the third-leading indicator for a liver transplant in the United States. 

The new center aims to accelerate efforts to develop non-invasive biomarker and ultrasound tests for early diagnosis of NAFLD and NASH, as well as new treatments. There are no approved therapies for either condition yet. The center also hopes to design and conduct several clinical trials on liver disease. 

UCSD researchers have progressed in combatting NAFLD and NASH, recently developing a new diagnostic tool based on magnetic resonance imaging to assess treatment responses in early phase clinical trials without a liver biopsy. 

The new center brings together specialists across the UCSD School of Medicine and elsewhere, including: Rohit Loombu, MD, professor of medicine in the division of gastroenterology and director of the new center; Claude Sirlin, MD, director of the department of radiology’s liver imaging group; Tatiana Kisseleva, MD, PhD, assistant professor at the department of surgery; specialists at the NASH Clinical Research Network; and many others.