A poor diet and other risk factors can result in liver disease. This important metabolic organ can become fatty and inflamed. In the long term, this may result in irreversible and life-threatening organ damage (cirrhosis of the liver or ‘shrunken liver’). Experts at the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) in Berlin have now analyzed liver cells in vitro to investigate how degenerative fattening and inflammation can impair the body’s primary detoxification system.
“The findings show that inflammatory processes in particular can disrupt the functioning of important enzymes in the liver cells”, says Professor Dr. Dr. Andreas Hensel, President des BfR. “This seriously impairs the ability of the liver to perform its job of detoxifying foreign substances that are ingested with food.”
It is not yet fully clear how a fatty and inflamed liver affects the liver’s ability to identify and break down foreign substances like chemicals or medication. In cooperation with the Dr. Margarete Fischer-Bosch Institute for Clinical Pharmacology in Stuttgart, the BfR researchers treated human liver cells with fatty acids as well as inflammation-promoting and foreign substances. This enabled them to simulate the conditions in the liver and to document how the cells respond.
The main finding reported by the scientists in the Drug Metabolism and Disposition journal was that, while mere fattening of the liver cells did not have a major impact on detoxification functions, this changed when they introduced inflammatory processes. It is therefore likely that the ability to render foreign substances harmless is significantly impaired in the presence of inflammation due to a fatty liver.