Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the most common liver disease in the world, affecting about a quarter of the world's population. Untreated, with hidden symptoms, NAFLD can progress to cirrhosis and liver cancer. However, obesity, which increases the risk of other chronic diseases, cannot yet be completely cured.
Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, have studied chemical modifications in some RNA molecules that have uncovered a protective mechanism against NAFLD. Over the past few years, scientists have already identified hundreds of chemical modifications that can occur in RNA molecules, altering instructions for making proteins. Some of these turn out to be beneficial, while others are not.
It turned out that the m6A modification, which slows down fat accumulation in the liver, has protective properties against NAFLD.
However, its absence manifested itself differently in males and females. Female mice without m6A developed NAFLD faster, which explains the higher incidence of liver obesity in females than in males, the authors explain.
Experimental treatments have already shown the promise of the new discovery for the development of new drugs. Gene therapies aimed at enhancing or modifying RNAi have slowed or reduced the severity of the disease. In further studies, scientists will retest the efficacy of this strategy to eventually come closer to developing a therapy for humans.
Recently, scientists from Germany were able to identify the mechanism that triggers lethal complications of NAFLD. This means that there is hope for the development of a therapy that can block the currently irreversible effects.