Date Published: 25 September 2006

Expansion of UK's largest Liver Research group - Newcastle University

Health News from the United Kingdom (UK).

A team of liver specialists, whose groundbreaking work incudes the identification of a drug with the potential to treat liver disease, has moved from Southampton to Newcastle University, creating the largest group of its kind in the UK.

The newly-arrived group is lead by Professor Derek Mann, who last year led collaborative research which demonstrated in laboratory tests that sulphasalazine, a drug currently used to treat arthritis and bowel disease, is capable of reversing fibrosis in the liver.

The results* were published in the journal, Gastroenterology. A second paper**, published in Apoptosis, describes the Southampton group's collaboration with chemists and oncologists to produce novel and more effective derivatives of sulphasalazine.

The researchers believe that, subject to further research and clinical trials, sulphasalazine could potentially be used to treat chronic liver disease (cirrhosis), a condition which is currently untreatable but which is on the increase in the UK, probably as a result of greater alcohol consumption, particularly binge-drinking, and levels of obesity.

Professor Mann joins Newcastle University as Chair of Hepatology in the Liver Research Group, in the Institute of Cellular Medicine.

The effects of liver disease can include jaundice, fatigue, weight loss and, ultimately, death. Liver disease can be determined through simple blood tests but currently help is often only sought when symptoms become severe, making it too late for treatment.

Professor Chris Day, Head of the School of Clinical Medical Sciences at Newcastle University, said:

Today between one in five to ten people in the UK are unaware that they have liver disease. Many patients are currently diagnosed too late to improve the disease by removing the underlying cause, such as obesity, alcohol or the hepatitis C virus infection. The work of my team is aimed at understanding the mechanisms leading to advanced liver disease with the aim of developing strategies for prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of symptoms and the underlying liver scarring. Most recently new recruits to the Newcastle Team have found evidence that, if treated early enough, this scarring process can be reversed. Only through raising awareness for the disease and highlighting the importance of early diagnosis, along with cutting-edge research, will we be able to achieve our aim of lowering mortality rates and improving quality of life for those affected.


* Inhibition of Inhibitor of _B Kinases Stimulates Hepatic Stellate Cell Apoptosis and Accelerated Recovery From Rat Liver Fibrosis. Gastroenterology 2005; 128: 108-120.

** Novel sulfasalazine analogues with enhanced NF-kB inhibitory and apoptosis promoting activity. Apoptosis 2005; 10: 481?491.


Source: Newcastle University - News Release

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