Disease Research Areas

Liver disease area

Human liver plays important functions such as regulating lipid and sugar metabolism, and filtering blood to remove toxic substances. Liver disease can be traced to plenty of causes, including hepatitis B virus, hepatitis C virus, alcohol abuse, obesity, and autoimmune diseases. In developing countries, hepatitis B virus is the major cause of hepatitis, which other causes are more prevalent in developed countries. American National Insititues of Health also estimated that 5.5 million Americans have chronic liver diseases. It was also estimated that up to 10% of the Chinese population were had been infected by hepatitis B virus once in their lives. Noticeably, obesity related liver disease in China is also on the rise after strong economy growth in the last few decades.

Inflammation and apoptosis of liver cells are the hallmarks of most liver diseases, which will lead to scar on liver – fibrosis. Although many patients of liver fibrosis do not show any symptom, liver function gradually decline with years of progression of fibrosis. Even after successful treatment of anti-viral drugs, liver fibrosis can still go on for years.

Liver enzymes tests such as ALT, AST are most routinely used liver function tests. However, liver biopsy is still the best but invasive method to examine the degree of fibrosis. Liver fibrosis can be measured using the well-established Ishak Fibrosis Score, which stages the severity of fibrosis and/or cirrhosis on a 0-6 scale.

Fibrosis, when unchecked, may lead to cirrhosis. At cirrhosis stage, liver function will decline precipitously. Acute-on-chronic liver failure (ACLF) may happen during this period of time. Morbidity and mortality are high among ACLF patients. Liver transplant, although costly and difficult to find donor, is the only option so far. In addition, HBV/HCV infected patients risk the infection of newly transplant liver again.

Currently, there are no approved medicine in China, US, Japan or Europe for liver fibrosis or ACLF. F351 and F573 are two drug candidates under development to treat these patients.