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Current Pharmacological Treatment of Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver

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Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a frequent and potentially progressive chronic liver disease that occurs in subjects who do not abuse alcohol. NAFLD is often associated with obesity, metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance and its more aggressive form, nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH) is a major cause of cryptogenic cirrhosis. NAFLD/NASH are commonly detected because of elevated serum aminotransferase levels, ultrasonographic fatty liver and, at liver histology, steatosis, inflammation, and occasionally fibrosis that may progress to cirrhosis. No established treatment exists for this potentially serious disorder. Current management of NAFLD/NASH is largely conservative and includes diet regimen, aerobic exercise, and interventions towards the associated metabolic abnormalities. The main concern is therefore to decrease liver steatosis and its progression toward steatohepatitis and fibrosis, and the risk of “cryptogenic” cirrhosis. Among the most promising medications, weight reducing drugs, insulin sensitizers and lipidlowering agents, antioxidants, bile salts, co-factors increasing the mitochondrial transport of fatty acids are being considered. Among them, thiazolidinediones are the most promising drug family that act by activating PPARγ nuclear receptors and by regulating both microsomal and peroxisomal lipid oxidative pathways. Pharmacological treatment of obesity and probiotics should be considered as potential therapeutic options. In this review, after summarizing the general background on fatty liver, the most current and attractive pharmacological approaches to the problem of NAFLD/NASH are discussed.

Keywords: Antioxidants; glitazones; insulin-resistance; liver steatosis; orlistat; probiotics; rimonabant; sibutramine

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Clinica Medica “A. Murri”, Department of Internal Medicine and Public Medicine (DIMIMP), University Medical School of Bari, Piazza Giulio Cesare 11, Policlinico, 70124 Bari -I, Italy.

Publication date: October 1, 2006

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  • Current Medicinal Chemistry covers all the latest and outstanding developments in medicinal chemistry and rational drug design. Each issue contains a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of the current topics in medicinal chemistry. Current Medicinal Chemistry is an essential journal for every medicinal chemist who wishes to be kept informed and up-to-date with the latest and most important developments.

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