UC San Diego Launches New Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) Research Center

Posted on February 11, 2016 by MFeiock

UC San Diego Launches New Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD) Research Center

Dr. Rohit Loomba, a new investigator of the UC San Diego Superfund Researcher Center (UCSD-SRC), has developed a research center focusing on nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).  The NAFLD Research Center will bring together multiple specialties and specialists from the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and elsewhere.  This Center will include the efforts of other UCSD-SRC investigators, Drs. David A. Brenner, Michael Karin, and Robert H. Tukey.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is the build up of extra fat in liver cells that is not caused by alcohol. While it is normal for the liver to contain some fat, if more than 5% - 10% percent of the liver’s weight is fat, then it is called a fatty liver (steatosis). The cause of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is unknown. Risk factors include obesity, gastric bypass surgery, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. Most people have no symptoms. In rare cases, people may experience fatigue, pain, or weight loss.  No standard treatment exists. Instead, doctors will treat the underlying condition, such as obesity.  Existing research has indicated that roughly one-quarter of all Americans – an estimated 100 million adults and children – have nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).  This chronic condition can lead to cirrhosis, liver cancer and liver failure. Combining a diverse array of basic science, biomarkers, imaging and clinical efforts, this new research center was launched to better understand the disease and develop treatments where none currently exist.

As reported by the UC San Diego Newscenter, Loomba mentioned that “we already have a lot of depth and breadth in the study and treatment of NAFLD and associated conditions at UC San Diego, in pharmacology, molecular medicine, physician training, clinical trial design and drug development, scientists and researchers here have been working on NALFD and related diseases for a long time. But this is a major step. It creates a single entity able to address every aspect of a global disease that didn’t even exist 35 years ago.” [READ MORE - UCSD Press Release and San Diego Union Tribune Article]

Loomba said that the Center will accelerate efforts to develop non-invasive biomarkers for early diagnosis of NASH as well as treatments for NAFLD and NASH. Currently, there are no approved, specific therapies. “The goal of our research is to prevent the progression of NAFLD to cirrhosis, and find better ways to treat the condition,” Loomba said.

Dr. Rohit Loomba is Professor of Medicine in the Division of Gastroenterology, and Adjunct Professor in the Division of Epidemiology at University of California at San Diego. He is a leading expert in translational research and innovative clinical trial design in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) and steatohepatitis (NASH).  He is also the founding director of the NAFLD Research Center.

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UCSD Superfund Research Center
University of California, San Diego
Pharmacology Department
9500 Gilman Drive, Mail Code 0722
La Jolla, CA 92093-0722