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Liver research links genetics to treatment

The discovery by scientists at Sydney’s Westmead Institute for Medical Research that the interferon lambda 3 (INLF3) protein causes liver fibrosis, has brought hope for the developments of new liver disease treatments.

The research also revealed a strong link between a patient’s inherited genetic makeup and the amount of liver damage to improve techniques of identifying patients at risk of developing cirrhosis, and the development of new drug targets.

Currently liver transplantation is the only treatment for liver failure. No current treatments are available for a safe pharmacological therapy that prevent the progression of liver disease.

The lead author of the study, Professor Jacob George, says that the research will enable early interventions and lifestyle changes because it helps to predict risk of liver disease to individuals.

The Westmead Institute has developed a diagnostic tool based on their discoveries, which is available for all doctors to use, to aid in predicting liver fibrosis risk.

“This test will help to determine whether an individual is at high risk of developing liver fibrosis, or whether a patient’s liver disease will progress rapidly or slowly, based on their genetic makeup,” Professor George said.

Liver disease is now the fifth most common cause of death in Australia and affects 6 million Australians. Most forms of liver disease significantly increase the risk of liver cancer, which is the most rapidly increasing form of cancer worldwide.

Australia is a world leader for successful transplant outcomes with almost 3,000 Australian adults and children have undergone successful liver transplantation. However there are still many more people requiring transplants than donors.

Meredith Horne