Liver disease research gets £720k MRC grant boost
13 October 2008
The Medical Research Council (MRC) has just awarded a grant of £720,000 to support research by UCL Institute of Hepatology in finding an effective treatment for hepatic encephalopathy.
Hepatic encephalopathy occurs when patients with advanced liver failure can't de-toxify their blood. These poisons pass to the brain, where they can result in alteration in organ function; causing confusion, drowsiness, coma and fatal brain swelling (encephalopathy).
Professor Rajiv Jalan and his co-investigators in the UCL Liver Failure Group team have developed a potential therapeutic drug that targets multiple organs such as the muscle, gut and kidneys to detoxify ammonia, which is thought to be central in the pathogenesis of hepatic encephalopathy.
Professor Jalan said: "Treatment of hepatic encephalopathy is an un-met clinical need affecting up to half of all patients with established liver disease.
"The research funded by the MRC is a collaborative study involving The New Royal Infirmary, Edinburgh, which will provide valuable data to further develop this unique concept and potentially provide solutions to this devastating and yet unsolved problem."
Supported by successes in animal models and positive preliminary human data, this grant from the MRC will allow the team to undertake clinical studies that will constitute the first study in man of this new therapeutic drug.
The main aim of the Liver Failure Group is to better understand the mechanisms of liver failure and use the knowledge to develop new biomarkers of disease and design novel therapeutic strategies. It includes clinicians and scientists who work closely at the Institute of Hepatology and UCL partner hospital UCH.
Four Patents have been filed in the last two years covering diagnostic biomarkers for liver failure and alcoholic hepatitis and a liver dialysis machine focusing on reversing altered albumin biology and inflammatory response in liver failure.