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Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2013;17 Suppl 2:72-81.

Breath tests with novel 13C-substrates for clinical studies of liver mitochondrial function in health and disease.

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  • 1Italian College of General Practitioners, Florence, Italy. piero.portincasa@uniba.it.


Mitochondrial dysfunction determines the onset and progression of chronic deleterious conditions including liver diseases. The in vivo assessment of mitochondrial function, by providing more insight into the pathogenesis of liver diseases, would be a helpful tool to study specific functions and to develop diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic strategies. The application of breath tests in the clinical setting to evaluate mitochondrial fitness may elegantly and noninvasively overcome the difficulties due to previous complex techniques and may provide clinically relevant information, i.e the effects of drugs presenting mitochondrial liabilities. Substrates meeting this requirement include alpha-ketoisocaproic acid and methionine, both decarboxylated by mitochondria. Long and medium chain fatty acids that are metabolized through the Krebs cycle and benzoic acid, which undergoes glycine conjugation, may also reflect the mitochondrial performance. This review focuses on the utility of breath tests to assess mitochondrial function in humans, thus contributing to unravel potential mechanisms associated with the dysfunction of this organelle network in the pathophysiology of liver diseases.

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