London, Dec 31 (UNI) A drug that reverses severe liver damage could be used to treat the disease in heavy drinkers who find it impossible to give up alcohol.
Scientists developed the drug after discovering a way to prevent the formation of excessive scar tissue caused by cirrhosis, hepatitis and other medical conditions.
They found that the drug not only slowed progression of the disease but also reversed damage to the organ.
Excessive alcohol intake, hepatitis and damage from burns triggers the growth of fibrous scar tissue inside the liver which spreads and eventually destroys its ability to carry out crucial tasks such as combating infection and breaking down toxins.
Researchers, led by Dr Martina Buck at the University of California, found that damage to the liver caused a specific group of cells to go into overdrive and churn out large amounts of collagen, a tough connective tissue. This causes excessive scarring.
The scientists then found that the cells only overproduced collagen in response to a chemical signal carried by a protein in the body called RSK.
They reasoned that if they could block the RSK signal they might be able to halt liver disease in its tracks, the Guardian reported.
The drug is promising because biopsies from people with liver disease have revealed that RSK triggers liver cells to produce scar tissue.
The drug could benefit heavy drinkers who show no intention of cutting down their alcohol intake, as most hospitals do not perform liver transplants on them.