Researchers Explore Role of S-adenosylmethionine

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), which is caused by the buildup of fat in the liver, is the nation’s most common liver disease, affecting as much as 30 percent of the population. That buildup of fat can lead to inflammation and damage, known as non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), and ultimately cirrhosis, or scarring, of the liver, which can be life threatening.

The disease currently has no treatment, though lifestyle changes have shown some success in countering its affects. The problem? No one is perfect.

"There is an urgent need for FDA-approved treatment besides weight loss and exercise, which are often difficult for patients to maintain," said Mazen Noureddin, MD, director of the Fatty Liver Program at Cedars-Sinai.

The experts in the Fatty Liver Program think the answer may lie in a bodily compound called S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe). It’s a natural component of our bodies, found in almost every tissue, and plays a vital role in the immune system liver inflammation, as well as a host of other important processes.

Low levels of SAMe have been proven to make the liver more prone to injury and inflammation, which is a promising indicator for research into ways of combatting the disease.

And more, may point to less invasive ways of diagnosing NAFLD. The compound may provide doctors with ways of measuring the state of the liver and progression of liver disease without putting patients through a liver biopsy.

"The exact role of SAMe in NAFLD and NASH definitely needs further exploration," Noureddin said. "Our research will delve into the connections between this compound and the most pervasive liver disease in the country."