Non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is growing into global problem, mainly due to NASH-induced cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), that can develop either subsequently to cirrhosis or preceding it. In addition, NASH-induced cirrhosis constitutes a significant fraction of cases diagnosed as cryptogenic cirrhosis. Thus, there is a need for deeper understanding of the molecular basis, leading to liver steatosis, then—to the associated inflammation seen in NASH, loss of liver architecture and cirrhosis, followed or paralleled by carcinogenesis and HCC. Insulin resistance, increased hepatic iron level, and certain cytokines, including TNF-α and IL-6 derived from extrahepatic adipose tissues, can trigger the chain of events. The imbalance between leptin and adiponectin is important as well. These markers remain important during the whole course from NASH through liver cirrhosis to HCC. The molecular pathogenesis substantiates treatment: hypertriglyceridemia can be lowered by low calorie diet; mTOR complex can become inhibited by physical activity and metformin; cholesterol synthesis, RAF/MAPK1/ERK and p21 pathway by statins; inflammation by pentoxyfillin, and kinases (in HCC) by sorafenib. Bidirectional regulation of telomere attrition, senescence and p21 pathway, restoration of wild-type p53 activity and regulation of miRNA network represent attractive future treatment options. Focusing on relevant molecular pathways allows deeper understanding of NASH pathogenesis, leading to identification of predictive markers and treatment targets.
Part of the book: Liver Cirrhosis