A drug, which undoes scarring and inflammation due to “fast food”, known as fatty liver disease, has had success in the laboratory.
Now human trials are planned to start within two years. The drug is designed to break the vicious cycle caused when immune cells go into “overdrive” in response to persistent poor diet.
The synthetic drug, URMC-099, restored the balance between immune and liver cells in mice.
Experts believe a similar drug can be used in other inflammatory disorders where the body attacks itself and tests are now being carried out in multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s and heart disease.
Professor “Handy” Gelbard has been leading the 10-year-study at the University of Rochester, New York, in company with Cambridge drug research company, Biofocus, US-based Mayo Clinic and University of Cincinnati.
He said: “This compound has the ability to turn down the volume on the immune response allowing the liver to regain its normal functions.
“I think this represents promise of a medicine that can help tackle many other diseases associated with an overactive innate immune system causing cell damage.”
Fatty and sugary foods can trigger inflammation in the liver and the body responds by sending immune cells to neutralise the threat.
The immune response can rage out of control, creating more inflammation and damaging the liver. The drug triggers signals that dial back the immune response to a normal level.
Professor Gelbard said: “A liver regularly confronted with high levels of fat and sugar cannot detoxify and this causes cell damage and eventually the liver cannot work properly. It’s like smoking round a petrol tank.”