New PET-Based Tool Detects Inflammation of Liver Due to Fatty Liver Disease



A team at UC Davis Health has developed a unique positron emission tomography (PET) imaging tool to detect liver inflammation in patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

Many patients diagnosed with the disease develop non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), which is characterized by inflammation of the liver and scarring or fibrosis, and can progress to cirrhosis of the liver and increase the risk of liver cancer.

“Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is one of the fastest growing causes of liver cancer in the world. It also leads to an increased need for liver transplantation,” said Souvik Sarkar, associate professor of gastroenterology and hepatology and research director at UC Davis Health. “Currently, there are very few tools to detect liver inflammation in patients other than invasive liver biopsy. Thus, establishing new methodologies for the early detection of patients could reduce their risk of developing new diseases. . “

In the United States, almost a third of the population has been diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Currently, there is no drug approved by the FDA to treat NASH, but several drugs are currently being tested in clinical trials. The first line of treatment for fatty liver disease is lifestyle modification, including weight loss, diabetes management, and exercise.

“The liver is a resilient organ that has shown a remarkable ability to heal itself once the underlying reason for the disease has been eliminated,” Souvik said.

The unique method uses dynamic PET imaging and mathematical modeling to measure the rate of glucose transport from blood to liver tissue. This correlates with the widely used grades or levels of liver inflammation. This revolutionary technique allows clinicians to quantify inflammation of the liver.

“It is exciting to see that our methodology can fill the void in clinical imaging of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease,” said Guobao Wang, associate professor of radiology at UC Davis Health. “This collaboration has been extremely fruitful, as our team worked diligently to develop this technique.”

The team is also developing an integrated imaging method based on PET and computed tomography (CT) for the measurement of liver fat and the assessment of fibrosis. The effort could provide a “one-stop-shop” tool for the diagnosis of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease using any commercial PET / CT scanner. This methodology will also be applied in multi-organ imaging using the state-of-the-art EXPLORER whole-body PET scanner at UC Davis.

Souvik and Wang, along with their colleagues Michael T. Corwin, Ramsey D. Badawi, Karen E. Matsukuma, Kristin A. Olson and Shuai Chen, have been collaborating on this project for five years. They received the UC Davis Health Collaboration for Diagnostic Innovation grant and a new $ 2.15 million grant from the National Institutes of Health.

The team recently published the first PET / CT results for the diagnosis of NASH in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology and previously published the first PET results in the American Journal of Roentgenology, along with the imaging and testing methods. modeling in physics in medicine and biology. The team has applied for a patent and it is currently pending.


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