Liver cirrhosis is one of the ten leading causes of death in adults worldwide and is the leading cause for liver transplants. At the same time, it is the main factor in the occurrence of liver cancer. Researchers at the Institute for Research in Biomedicine in Barcelona (IRB Barcelona) believe that the latter fact may be key to preventing and treating this disease.
Cirrhosis is a chronic liver damage, accompanied by the accumulation of scar (fibrous) tissue, which alters the normal structure of the organ and affects its functioning. This condition is usually caused by alcoholism, hepatitis C and, increasingly, obesity.
The accumulation of fibrous tissue interferes with blood circulation, which leads to portal hypertension – increased pressure in the portal vein system. To relieve pressure on the vein, additional blood vessels develop outside the liver. There are two problems here: first, the liver itself receives even less blood, which leads to an aggravation of the disease; secondly, new blood vessels of poor quality. This is called pathological angiogenesis. “The liver cells try to repair the damage to the liver, but they do it in a fatal way for the organ. This is a vicious circle that ultimately threatens the patient’s life, explains Dr.Mercedes Fernández. – In addition, additional blood vessels create varicose veins in the esophagus and stomach of cirrhotic patients; these veins are very fragile and tend to collapse, resulting in severe abdominal hemorrhages that are difficult to stop. ” The new drug eliminates and / or prevents the formation of pathological veins, which is effective for the development of this dangerous complication of cirrhosis. Suppression of the CPEB4 protein is key in treatment. Scientists have found that it can prevent the development of abnormal blood vessels. They were pushed to this idea by previous studies, when the CPEB protein was found to be involved in the occurrence of cancers of various organs. Pathological angiogenesis is a key factor in the further development of the disease and deterioration of the patient’s condition.
Therefore, many attempts have been made in the past to find a treatment for just this condition. However, older drugs have focused on suppressing the VEGF protein, which is directly involved in the formation of blood vessels. The problem is that the indiscriminate attack on this protein interfered with the normal development of the rest of the blood vessels, leading to unbearable side effects. On the other hand, suppression of CPEB4 does not lead to side effects.