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Alcohol and Diabetes Increase Risk of Liver Disease Progression in Hepatitis B Patients

Older patients and men with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection were more likely to progress to liver cancer, decompensated cirrhosis, and liver-related death, while Asian patients had lower progression rates, according to an analysis of Kaiser Permanent members presented at the recent American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases "Liver Meeting" (AASLD 2010) in Boston. Diabetes and heavy alcohol use also predicted poor outcomes.

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Androgen Receptor May Explain Why More Men with Hepatitis B Develop Liver Cancer

Androgen receptors -- proteins on cell surfaces that bind with male hormones like testosterone -- interact directly with hepatitis B virus (HBV) to turn on genes that trigger cell changes leading to liver cancer, according to a study published in the May 19, 2010 issue of Science Translational Medicine. Because androgen receptors are more active in men, this finding helps explain why men with chronic hepatitis B are about 3 times more likely than women to develop hepatocellular carcinoma.

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EASL 2010: MARS and Prometheus Artificial Liver Devices Offer Some Benefits for Patients with Liver Failure, but Did Not Improve Survival

An out-of-body liver dialysis device known as the Molecular Adsorbents Recirculating System (MARS) -- which takes over some lost filtering function in people with liver failure -- reduced levels of toxic substances in the blood and improved symptoms of hepatic encephalopathy in patients with acute-on-chronic liver failure, though it did not significantly extend survival, according to a late-breaker presentation at the 45th Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL 2010) this month in Vienna. Another study found that the Prometheus extracorporeal liver support system also did not improve survival overall, though it did help specific groups of patients.

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Sex Hormone Receptor May Explain Higher Risk of Hepatocellular Carcinoma in Men

Interaction between hepatitis B virus (HBV) and the androgen receptor in the liver promotes viral replication and triggers cell changes that lead to development of hepatocellular carcinoma, according to a study in mice described in the May 19, 2010 issue of Science Translational Medicine. Since men have more active androgen receptors than women, these findings help explain why men with hepatitis B are more prone to liver cancer, and suggest that blocking androgen receptors in the liver might be an effective treatment.

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Appetite-regulating Hormone Ghrelin May Inhibit Inflammation and Liver Fibrosis

Ghrelin, an appetite-regulating hormone produced primarily in the stomach, reduced liver fibrosis, inflammation, and oxidative stress in rats and protected them from both chronic and acute liver injury, according to a study published in the March 2010 issue of Hepatology. Researchers also found that ghrelin levels were lower in chronic hepatitis patients with advanced fibrosis. If confirmed in future studies, ghrelin may have potential as an anti-fibrotic therapy.

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EASL 2010: Measurable Neurocognitive Impairment Persists after Episodes of Hepatic Encephalopathy in People with Liver Cirrhosis

Changes in working memory, psychomotor speed, and other neurocognitive measures persist in patients with hepatic encephalopathy due to decompensated liver cirrhosis, according to research presented at the 45th Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of the Liver (EASL 2010) last month in Vienna. A related study presented at the Digestive Disease Week conference (DDW 2010) last week in New Orleans found that more than half of people with compensated cirrhosis (mostly due to hepatitis C) showed signs of neurocognitive impairment, indicating that mild hepatic encephalopathy is common even among individuals without severe liver disease.

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Bone Loss and Vitamin D Deficiency Are Common among People with Liver Cirrhosis

People with liver cirrhosis -- a potential outcome of chronic hepatitis B or C -- frequently experience bone loss, or reduced bone mineral density (BMD), and often have low vitamin D levels, according to an Indian study published in the July 28, 2009 issue of World Journal of Gastroenterology.

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